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….
July 21, 2012
[FACT comments: You’d have to be plain crazy to pop the bird at the King…or even his visage. Thai courts won’t buy the truth; can they be expected to take bona fide medical reasons into consideration?]
Woman to face royal insult charge pending mental examination
The Nation: July 19, 2012
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung on Thursday confirmed police would charge a woman accused of insulting the monarchy if she was found to be sane in the mental status examination.
“I confirm police will legal action,” he said, dismissing speculation about police inaction.
On Friday, Thitinan Juntaranont, Thai expatriate from New Zealand and seen as a red shirt, defiled the picture of the King displayed at the multi-colour shirt rally during the Constitution Court verdict session on charter change.
Policemen promptly intervened to escort her from the scene and refused to press charge on grounds for suspected insanity.
A number of activists stepped forward to criticise police for drawing a hasty conclusion before sending the accused for psychological evaluation.
On Tuesday following the spread of messages in the social media, a number of Thais rallied at Suvarnabhumi Airport in a bid prevent Thitinan from boarding a flight to Auckland.
Police subsequently clarified that Thitinan was admitted to the Galya Rajanagarindra Institute to undergo mental tests.
Woman held for making rude gestures
The Nation July 19, 2012
City police have assigned a team to look into allegations that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, a 63-year-old New Zealand resident, had made an improper gesture toward an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court on Friday, Metropolitan Police deputy commander Pol Maj-General Anuchai Lekbumrung said yesterday.
The woman, who was born in Thailand, was stopped from boarding a flight to Auckland and is currently being detained at the Galaya Rajanagarindra Institute.
Thitinant will face lese majeste charges, though a psychiatrist will also determine the state of her mind, he said. She reportedly has a history of mental illness and had undergone treatment at Sri Thanya Hospital.
Meanwhile, Immigration Police Office 2 commander Pol Maj-General Natthorn Phrosunthorn said that Thitinant’s name was not included in the list of those leaving the country nor was there an arrest warrant out for her. However, he added, that police had notified his office at 4pm yesterday to stop her from leaving the country. He said Thitinant’s two relatives were able to travel to Auckland as normal.
Bangkok Post: July 18, 2012
A New Zealand-resident Thai woman accused of a lese majeste offence did not show up for a flight to Auckland yesterday after police admitted her to hospital.
About 200 people had turned up at Suvarnabhumi airport to protest against her possible departure.
Protesters picketed outside the airport after learning that Thitinant Kaewchantranont, 63, was due to check in for a Thai Airways International (THAI) flight to Auckland.
Danuj Bunnag, managing director for THAI’s ground services business unit, said Ms Thitinant did not arrive at Suvarnabhumi to check in for the flight, although her husband, a New Zealand national, did get on board.
Ms Thitinant has a history of mental illness.
Thung Song Hong police in Bangkok, who have lodged a lese majeste complaint against her, referred her to Srithanya Hospital in Nonthaburi to see if she is genuinely mentally ill.
She has since been referred to the Galaya Rajanagarindra Institute.
She was admitted to the hospital on Friday last week after allegedly making an improper gesture towards an image of His Majesty the King outside the Constitution Court on the same day.
Police said that if Ms Thitinant had shown up at the airport, officers would have prevented her from boarding, as they believed she was unfit to leave the country.
A THAI source said the plane’s captain had pledged to refuse to pilot the aircraft if Ms Thitinant was on board, arguing the woman could pose a security risk.
Protesters left the airport after they were told Ms Thitinant had not turned up for the flight and was being assessed at a hospital.
[CJ Hinke of FACT comments: There is a plot! The court is telling an accused he can’t plead not guilty! Unbelievable… The goal is obviously conviction at all costs.]
LESE MAJESTY LAW
Court defers lese majeste case, defence advised
The Nation:July 20, 2012
Ekachai Hongkangwan’s lese majeste trial has been deferred to mid-November after judges advised the defendant to change his plea by saying that he had no intention to defame the monarchy but that he merely wanted to share information.
One of the two presiding judges said the defendant did not necessarily have to prove if the information was factual or not. “Because if it is true, it is more defamatory and if it isn’t true, then it’s super defamatory,” Judge Aphisit Veeramitchai explained to lawyer Arnon Nampha and the defendant yesterday. “So proving whether the information is factual or not will not be beneficial to you at all… You have to consider this yourself.”
The judge went on to say that the prosecutors were not out to prove if the information provided in a Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) documentary or on a WikiLeaks cable was factual or not. “They say the content defames [the monarchy],” he said.
However, in his rebuttal, Arnon said that he and his client still wanted to prove the factuality of the information referred to in the documentary, which led to Ekachai’s arrest. Police arrested Ekachai on March 10 last year after he was caught carrying two sets of WikiLeaks diplomatic cable papers as well as peddling unauthorised CDs of the ABC documentary at Bt20 apiece. He was released on bail nine days later.
Arnon told the judges that he had already filed three court requests to summon Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and Councillor Sith Savetsila to explain their remarks on the future of the monarchy that were referred to in the WikiLeaks papers. He went on to say that he personally believed that Prem and Sith would be truthful about whether the information attributed to them on WikiLeaks was indeed a fact.
After nearly 30 minutes of consultation and 20 minutes of recess, all sides agreed that the trial should be deferred to November and that the defence would focus on proving that Ekachai had no intention to defame the Crown Prince or the monarchy.
However, the defence lawyer said he reserved the right to have the court summon Prem and Sith in case the prosecution still wished to prove the factuality of the information. The court has also accepted the defence lawyer’s request to seek a Constitution Court ruling as to whether or not the lese majeste law contradicts the Constitution because Arnon’s argument is that it violates freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, 36-year-old Ekachai said he still wants to prove that none of the information provided in the documentary or the WikiLeaks papers was provided with malicious intent.
The former lottery agent went on to say that it was imperative for Prem and Sith to testify, adding “I don’t think I will get away by trying to fight on the basis of my intention”.