January 1, 2013
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 160,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
December 17, 2012
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor and labor rights advocate, has been held without bail since his arrest April 30, 2011. Somyot’s next court appearance will be on December 19, 2012; the court is expected to announce Somyot’s verdict so your support is most important. We welcome all observers.
Briefing Note_SomyotPrueksakasemsuk 15102012
Based on discussion with Somyot’s defence team, it has proven a deterrent to legal excesses and improper judicial practice for individuals and organizations attending to send an official letter to Thawee Prachuaplarb, Director-General of Criminal Court Judges, notifying the Court of your participation requesting. It would be helpful if your letter, if in English, should be accompanied by a copy of a Thai translation, if possible. The letter should be addressed to Criminal Court Building, Rachadapisek Road, Jompon District, Chatuchak Sub-district, Bangkok 10900 (Calling/Faxing in Thailand: Tel. 02-541-2284-90, Fax 02-541-2142 and 02-541-2141, Calling/Faxing outside Thailand: Tel. (662) 541 – 2284 to 2290, Fax (662) 541 – 2142, 541 – 2141) (in Thai: นายทวี ประจวบลาภ อธิบดีผูพิพากษาศาลอาญา อาคารศาลอาญา ถนนรัชดาภิเษก แขงวงจอมพล เขต จตุจักร กรุงเทพฯ 10900).
Your letter should address the concerns of freedom of expression and fair trial in international communities. The letter should not address directly that you are concerned with the lack of impartiality in the Thai court as this could forbid you from participating in the trial observation, as the court is extremely sensitive on criticism.
Next week, the Criminal Court will resume its schedule on Somyot’s case on 19 December 2012 after it has been delayed for three months without informed explanation. Prior to this, the Constitutional Court also ruled that Article 112 is not against the constitutionality. Both information made the lawyer as well as the family grave concerns about the negative development of the case. According to the lawyer, if the Criminal Court decided on penalty, Somyot may face a sentence of maximum 10-year imprisonment.
While there are neither confirmation nor details about the next court schedule informed by writing, fear of prolonged detention as well as sudden verdict announcement has been worsen among family members.
In this regard, the 112 Family Network would like to draw your attention as well as ask for your participation on the trial observation on 19 December 2012. Due to experience of other freedom of expression cases, we learnt that both Thai and international observers play a very important role to ensure fair trials.
Somyot’s verdict is held Wednesday, December 19, at Bangkok’s Criminal Court (San Aya), on Ratchadapisek Road opposite Soi 32, Lat Phrao MTR station at 9am.
Volunteer interpretation is provided upon request: email@example.com.
WE URGE ALL READERS ATTEND COURT IN SUPPORT OF SOMYOT AND TO STAND UP FOR FREE SPEECH.
Thank you so much. We’ll see you in court.
December 17, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: We have all been wildly conditioned to live in fear of criminals and subversives and radicals. That fear prevents us from seeing the bigger picture. The gaoling of one man or woman rips apart marriages, families and communities and no good at all for the wider society. On the eve of Somyot’s verdict, we ask you to put yourself in wiofe Sukunya’s or son Panitan’s shoes.]
Political Prisoners in Thailand: October 29, 2012
Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk, wife of lese majeste political prisoner Somyos, has released a letter she has written to her husband. There are versions available in English and in ไทย. Despite Sukunya’s tireless efforts on behalf of her husband, Somyos remains imprisoned. Her letter is released to coincide with the 18-month anniversary of her husband’s imprisonment.
Somyos has been imprisoned for this very lengthy period but has still not had a verdict delivered. As PPT recently noted, the UN’s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has issued an Opinion, stating that:
The deprivation of liberty of Mr Prueksakasemsuk, being in contravention of Articles 19 of the UDHR [Universal Declaration of Human Rights] and 19 (2) of the ICCPR [International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights], is arbitrary, and falls in categories II of the categories applicable to the cases submitted to the Working Group.
As a result of the Opinion rendered, the Working Group requests the Government to take the necessary steps to remedy the situation of Mr Prueksaksemsuk and bring it into conformity with the standards and principles set forth in the ICCPR.
The Working Group believes that, taking into account all circumstances of the case, the adequate remedy would be to release Mr Prueksakasemsuk and accord him and enforceable right to compensation pursuant to Article 9(5) of the ICCPR.
December 17, 2012
Political Prisoners in Thailand: November 4, 2012
In an earlier post, PPT drew attention to the first letter from Sukunya Prueksakasemsuk to her husband, the imprisoned lese majeste political prisoner Somyos. Somyos has been jailed for more than 18 months as he awaits a verdict on this political charge.
The second letter has been released (in ไทย) and begins with comments about visiting “hours” – actually just a few minutes – at the Bangkok Remand Prison and ends with the delight at Surapak Puchaisaeng‘s acquittal on lese majeste and computer crimes charges. The English version follows:
3 Nov 2012
Week 73 of the prolonged detention.
There are many things happened in this week after I visited you at the prison last Tuesday. Fist of all, I must say that no one visited the 112 prisoners except Jane and me on that day. So I had a good chance to talk to you, Pee Surachai and Noom all together in one. It seemed that the 20 minutes flied so fast and we talked over time limit until the officer warned us to separate and asked you to go back inside. A period of 20 minutes is very short and always not enough to be with the one that I love and wait for the whole week.
The prison allows us to meet once a day from 11.10 to 11.30 at weekdays only. As I am busy and don’t have lot of free time, I could only meet you once a week. I have to spend that little time that they allow as good and most valuable as I can. One thing that I have seen and am happy is that you still maintain your courage and strength. You don’t lose heart and have a good spirit even it has been a very long time since you have been detained. Your faith remains unchanged. So I hope someday your dream will come true.
From my conversation with Pee Surachai which was the first time that I talked to him in an official manner. Before that I only had some greetings and small talks with him. He told me that the Thai people must have a clear picture of democracy. Supporting a political party must be based on a clear understanding of the rights to have the different opinions and the roles and responsibilities of ourselves. When the party became the government and ruler, they might not do things that they promised but we as the citizen must not lose the sight & sense of equality and democracy. We will have to push them to complete actions as promised.
For Noom, we have talked and lent mental support to each other. Noom said that if he is released, he will dedicate to our 112 Family Network which I am very glad to hear that he has realised the importance of our Network and intended to share his painful experience and opinion on the impact of the article 112. Many people still think that this law is not relevant to them at all which is not correct. Anyone can be sued from the article 112. I hope to hear a good news about Noom from his recent seeking for royal pardon.
Finally the great news for this week is the acquit of Surapak (Tum)’s trial on Wednesday this week. I am very happy for Tum, Pa Tam and his family to have him back home. I wish that when it come to your verdict, we will receive a fair trial and end the long process with full of justice.
Love you as always,
October 31, 2012
Thailand’s first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication [sic] Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.
Thailand’s first blocklist marked the first and only attempt at transparency by Thailand’s Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai government.
Thailand’s first blocklist concentrated on the Patani United Liberation Organisation (PULO), a banned group of separatists from Thailand’s deep Muslim south. In subsequent years, we’ve seen how well that censorship strategy worked out. It created an enormous militant insurgency which has resulted in more than 5,000 murders.
Following Thailand’s military coup d’etat on September 19, 2006, the military’s fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.
Most famously, Thailand ramped up its censorship with a complete block of popular video sharing site, YouTube, for seven months in 2007. It appeared Thai censors didn’t have the capacity to block individual videos.
Thailand was the first country to block YouTube, claiming a handful juvenile videos insulting Thailand’s monarchy were a ‘threat to national security’. Following this stand-off, Google, YouTube’s parent company, created a system of geolocational blocking which is now used to block YouTube videos in dozens of repressive regimes.
However, the coup government’s first legislative action was to promulgate the Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to ‘only’ 20 years in prison.
The CCA contains full censorship powers but also a provision that MICT must seek court orders for blocking. Revealing these court orders would also make blocking information public so all the court orders, paid for by Thai taxpayers, are sealed in secrecy.
An appointed Democrat administration followed the military junta. However, when mass demonstrations in 2010 threatened its power, the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration declared martial law decreeing a state of emergency. The Emergency Decree suspended all normal rule of law, as well as constitutional and international treaty protections for freedom of expression.
The Dems created two military agencies with Orwellian names and even acronyms. The Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) and the Centre for the Administration of Public Order (CAPO) were given complete extralegal power to censor the Internet.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) was just one website to be censored early by the ‘emergency’.
FACT continues to publish leaked blocklists and court orders as well as providing instructions for circumvention of Thai censorship to readers. FACT teaches its readers how to pressure ISPs and govt censors to unblock URLs. FACT has also published censorship blocklists from 16 foreign countries.
However, research by Thailand’s iLaw Foundation revealed that MICT had quietly continued to use the CCA’s provisions for blocking the Internet using court orders. Thai government was ‘legally’ blocking webpages on a wholesale basis, submitting for court order thousands of URLs each time.
The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.
Other than court-ordered censorship, Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act has only served one further purpose. Many of Thailand’s scores of political prisoners have been charged with lèse majesté using the CCA.
This has resulted in prison sentences up to 15 years using multiple charges. Charges have not only been brought against content creators but content providers, page designers, webmasters and other intermediaries, including those overseas who dared to visit ‘the land of smiles’.
Furthermore, Thai judges have decreed that hyperlinking to ‘offensive’ or ‘inappropriate’ content is just as criminal as publishing it. Unspecified delay in removing such commentary is also illegal. And so is clicking ‘Like’ on Facebook.
Thailand’s censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the ‘emergency’ have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.
Many observers think Thai government censorship solely targets alleged lèse majesté. However, the fact is, we are not allowed the freedom of expression about anything guaranteed by our Constitution.
Meanwhile, Thai censorship that we know about continues to rise at a rate of 690 new blocked URLs every day. In fact, with complete secrecy by Thai censors, the real number is likely to be far higher.
The cost to society by creating a dumbed-down public not in possession of all the facts is impossible to quantify. The economic costs, however, can be. To block 690 web pages, Thai government spends THB 1.5 million (USD $50,000), or THB 2,174 (USD $71) per URL.
To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043—more than two billion baht—(almost USD $71 million) to censor our Internet.
On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs—Happy Halloween.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)
Bangkok: October 31, 2555
July 21, 2012
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: Chotisak and Chutima were early signers of FACT’s petition against all censorship. We’re very happy for them. When will the next Thai Rosa Parks just be too damned tired to stand up for the Royal anthem? Not standing is not a crime! We would be curious to know if a law such as the Film Act is used to compel theatre owners to play the anthem before each showing? Or is it just meaninglessly repeated social convention...as is standing?]
Prachatai: July 20, 2012
The public prosecutor has decided to drop a lèse majesté case against Chotisak Onsoong and his friend who did not stand up for the royal anthem in a Bangkok cinema in 2007.
Wisit Sukyukhon, a public prosecutor, sent a letter on 11 April this year to Pathumwan police who first took up the case, to inform them about the decision.
On 20 Sept 2007, at a cinema in the Central World shopping complex in downtown Bangkok, Chotisak, 26, and his female friend, whose name is withheld, had a heated argument with Navamintr Witthayakul, 40, who was among the audience, after the two ignored Navamintr’s demand for them to stand up for the royal anthem which precedes every movie shown in Thailand’s cinemas.
Chotisak called the police and filed complaints at Pathumwan police station against Navamintr for verbal and physical abuse, damage to personal property and coercion, while Navamintr filed a lèse majesté complaint against them.
In April 2008, Chotisak and his friend were charged with lèse majesté by the police.
In Sept 2008, the public prosecutor dropped the physical abuse charges against Navamintr, and in Oct 2008 the police forwarded the lèse majesté case against Chotisak and his friend to the public prosecutor.
According to the letter, the prosecutor believes that by not standing up for the royal anthem, and by saying ‘Why is it necessary to stand up when it is not required by law?’, the actions of the accused did not constitute insults or defamation.
Although the behaviour of the accused was improper and should not be copied by others, their actions cannot be pinpointed as having the intention to insult the King, and there is insufficient evidence to justify their prosecution, the prosecutor says.
In a similar case on the iLaw website, one moviegoer at the Major Cineplex Ratchayothin on 15 Jun 2008 did not stand up for the royal anthem, lifted both her feet onto the next chair, and after the anthem was over, shouted vulgar words.
On 19 Oct 2009, the court found her guilty under Section 112 of the Criminal Code, and sentenced her to three years in prison, but the jail term was reduced by half and suspended for two years as she had pleaded guilty and had a history of mental illness, according to the testimony of doctors from Srithanya and Trang Hospitals.
[FACT comments: BP is quite right in pointing out this anomaly. What exactly is jurisprudence if not for finding out the truth? Unfortunately, defamation conviction worldwide reveal a bitter side effect. For defamation to be criminal, it simply doesn’t matter if the substance of the defamation is a true statement or an outright lie.]
Bangkok Pundit: July 19, 2012
Ekachai’s defence lawyer Arnon Nampha tried to dwell on the facts of some of the information deemed as defamatory – whether it was true or not. But the judges told him they were not out to prove whether the alleged defamatory statements in the video and texts were accurate in reality or not.
“Whether it’s true or not, if you prove it, what will be gained from it?” one of the presiding judges said to Arnon.
BP: Then again, truth is not a defence in a lese majeste case in Thailand so perhaps it is not surprising. Nevertheless, when it comes from a judge it still sounds disconcerting….