Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is delighted to announce that Prudence Margaret Leith, OBE, CBE has honoured us by becoming FACT’s Royal patron.

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)…now Under Royal  Patronage, ในพระอุปถัมภ์ฯ in Thai.

 Li-Da, Rayne, Prue, Daniel

Prue Leith is a remarkable woman. We came to know her as the widow of the author of Thailand’s most famous banned book.

The Devil’s Discus by Prue’s husband, Rayne Kruger, was published in the UK in 1964. Not only was the book immediately officially banned in Thailand but it is rumoured that Thai govt bought, and burned, as many remaining copies it could acquire. First editions remain exceedingly scarce and costly.

A Thai translation, กงจักรปีศาจ (Kongjat Bisat), was published in 1977, credited to the Students’ History Club at Thammasat University. It was translated by Chalit Chaisitthiwet, the brother of the officer named as King Ananda’s killer.

It is rumoured but unsubstantiated in Rayne Kruger’s obituary in The Times that the Thai printing house was burned to the ground for this affront. In any case, the Thai translation was not banned until 2007 when it came to the attention of authorities…30 years after its original publication.

Every known copy of the two printings of The Devil’s Discus in Thai are found to have the first 16 pages excised. Of course, this only deepens the mystery. What was on those missing pages which was considered too risky to distribute to the public…even more risky than the banned book itself?

It was this inaccessible work of fine investigative reporting which led to my vendetta against censorship and the founding of Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) in 2006. It was King Ananda who drew me to the censorship issue.

In 2007, Prue generously assigned the international rights to The Devil’s Discus to FACT. Since then, new editions have been published in German, Japanese, and English; a Chinese translation is in process.  Not one but two new editions of กงจักรปีศาจ reached print in 2011 in Thailand. They are still quite illegal to distribute (though not to possess) and are sold quietly but openly, passed from hand to hand.

It is testament to the enduring scholarship of The Devil’s Discus for publishers and distributors to risk their freedom to get this book into the hands of readers.

Buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Relish-My-Life-Many-Courses/dp/0857384031/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339576682&sr=1-1&keywords=Leith%2BRelish

Prudence Leith is a remarkable woman whose varied iterations she chronicled just this year in her autobiography, Relish: My Life in Many Courses.

Prue was born in South Africa before emigrating to England with her husband Rayne. The couple was an obvious inspiration to their children: Danny became a journalist and Li-Da a filmmaker.

Prue became a professional caterer (Leith’s Good Food, 1961); a celebrity chef in her own Michelin-starred London restaurant (Leith’s, 1969); and founder of Leith’s School of Food and Wine (1975) to train global chefs. Prue has had cookery columns in four major British daily newspapers for which she received the Corning Award Food Journalist of the Year (1979) and the Glenfiddich Trade Journalist of the Year award (1983). Six of Prue’s own cooking show series have appeared on British television.

Prue has been received eleven honourary degrees and fellowships and serves several charities. She founded the British Food Trust, is a trustee of Slow Food UK and chairs the School Food Trust which she considers her most important work so far. She still serves on the board of the Orient-Express. Prue is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and an Honourary Fellow of the Council of City and Guilds of London Institute (FCGI). In her spare time, Prue has authored 21 cookbooks from 1979 to 1999 and six novels in the new millennium.

She was Royally-appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1989, named Veuve Clicquot’s 1990 Business Woman of the Year and received the Royal appointment Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2010 as part of Queen Elizabeth II’s birthday honours.

Considering Thailand’s current political imbroglio over govt’s profligate use of the lèse majesté laws, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) is pleased to buck this trend…under Royal patronage.

Deepest thanks and affection for our patron, and friend, Prudence Leith OBE, CBE.

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

 

The Devil’s Discus in English is available for download here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2496420/The-Devil-s-Discus

and จักรปีศาจ here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2801432/หนังสือหายาก, and here: http://www.scribd.com/collections/2690652/หนังสือหายาก.

The Devil’s Discus in English may be purchased here: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&vci=1330729&an=&tn=devil%27s+discus&kn=&isbn=&x=0&y=0

and in German here:  König Ananda Des Teufels Diskus http://www.epubli.de/shop/buch/König-Ananda-Mark-Teufel-9783869311265/2141

Works by Prudence Leith

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/prue-leith/

Non fiction

Cooking for Friends (1979)

Leith’s Cookery Course (1979)

Dinner Parties (1984)

The Cook’s Handbook (1984)

Entertaining with Style (1985) (with Polly Tyrer)

Leith’s Cookery School (1990)

Leith’s Cookery Bible (1991)

Sunday Times Slim Plan: The 21-day Diet for Slimming Safely (1992)

Leith’s Complete Christmas (1992)

Leith’s Baking (1993)

Leith’s Vegetarian Cookery (1993)

Chicken Dishes (1993)

Fruit: Confident Cooking (1993)

Quick and Easy: Confident Cooking (1993)

Salads: Confident Cooking (1993)

Soups and Starters: Confident Cooking (1993)

Vegetarian: Confident Cooking (1993)

Leith’s Step-by-step Cookery (1993)

Leith’s Contemporary Cooking (1994)

Leith’s Guide to Wine (1995)

Leith’s Easy Dinners (1999)

Relish: My Life in Many Courses (2012)

Novels

Leaving Patrick (1999)

Sisters (2001)

A Lovesome Thing (2004)

The Gardener (2007)

The Choral Society (2009)

A Serving of Scandal (2010)

Political Prisoners in Thailand: July 2, 2012

http://thaipoliticalprisoners.wordpress.com/2012/07/02/lese-majeste-solidarity/

PPT has received information regarding several solidarity activities for the victims of the lese majeste law.

The first involves the Launch of the Network of Family Members and People Affected by Article 112.

The official launch involves two events on 5 and 7 July 2012. The 5 July event is the issue of a press release to the international media at 10:30 AM at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

The event for the local  audience will involve a press release following a seminar at the 14th October Memorial, Ratchadamnern Avenue. The seminar begins at 1 PM and is titled “Open the prison doors for our 112 friends.” The event should conclude about 3.00 PM.

Moderator Panitan Phruksakasemsuk
Panelists: Sulak Sivaraksa, founder and director of “Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation” charged with LM four times;
Jon Ungpakorn, Representative from the National Human Rights Commission Sub-Commitee, former Senator, Magsaysay Awardee;
Pravit Rojanaphruk, Journalist from The Nation and Prachatai, facing seven LM accusations;
Sarawut Pratoomraj, Human Rights Advocate from Institute for Rules of Law and Human Rights
Representative from Democracy for Peace and Prosperity Group (DPP Thailand)
Family members and people affected by the Article 112:
Pranee Danwattananusorn (Surachai’s wife)
Keechiang Thaweewarodomkul (Tantawut’s father)
Rosamalin Tangnoppakun (the late Ampon’s wife)
Tam Poochaisang (Surapak’s mother)
Nat Sattayapornpisut
Interested public and media are invited to join. Further information about attendance; please feel free to contact Mr. Panitan Phruksakasemsuk (086-660-0270) or Ms. Sunee Kromram (080-484-3075)

A second event is the launch of a new book about Somyos Prueksakasemsuk that came out on 16 June. The book is in Thai and contains stories about Somyos and his work by his friends and colleagues across the world.

Third, Somyos and his lawyers are about to make his 10th bail application. PPT urges continued support for him by signing the online letter calling for the his release of Somyot and right to bail. Sign on for the campaign here.

In advance of Independence Day, a host of groups and individuals have launched the Declaration of Internet Freedom, fighting for a free and open Internet.

Lance Whitney

CNET News: July 2, 2012

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-57464995-38/will-you-sign-the-declaration-of-internet-freedom/

SIGN THE PETITION!:

Individuals: https://action.eff.org/o/9042/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8750

Civil society: http://www.internetdeclaration.org/freedom

 

[Lance Whitney/CNET]

Do you believe the Internet needs protection against censorship and other threats? If so, then you may want to join in on the new Declaration of Internet Freedom.

Launched by a large coalition of privacy groups, Web sites, and individuals, the Declaration of Internet Freedom is the start of a process striving to keep the Internet free and open. The organizations and people who kicked off this process are looking for other Internet users to discuss the ideas, share their own thoughts, and sign the declaration.

“We’ve seen how the Internet has been under attack from various directions, and we recognize that it’s time to make that stop,” said TechDirt, one of the Web sites involved in the new movement. “The Internet is an incredible platform that we want to grow and to thrive, and thus, a very large coalition got together to produce the following document as a starting point, hoping to kick off a much larger discussion which we hope you’ll join in.”

At this point, the Declaration of Internet Freedom advocates five basic principles:

  1. Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
  2. Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
  3. Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create, and innovate.
  4. Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
  5. Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.

People who want to sign the petition or share their opinions can do so at any number of Web sites, including TechDirt, Freepress, Accessnow, and the declaration’s own site.

For now, the declaration and its principles are still in the discussion stage, inviting people to debate the issues and offer their own opinions.

But the groups behind this cause are clearly hoping the power of Internet users and Web sites can have an effect on Washington, especially in light of the defeat of the SOPA bill earlier this year.

Thailand may have chaired the UN’s Human Rights Council but no case more clearly demonstrates Thailand’s total disregard for human rights than that of PULO.

The Patani United Liberation Organisation was founded in 1968 although there had been an active separatist movement since at least 1941. PULO’s demand was for separation of the five Southern Muslim provinces of Narathiwat, Yala, Pattani, Songkhla and Satun.

These provinces were part of the autonomous sultanate of Patani which was divided by King Chulalongkorn when he sold four lower Patani provinces (Saiburi, renamed Kedah; Kelantan; Perlis; and Terengganu) to England in 1910 in order to finance a railway unifying Thailand from north to south. It goes without saying that this division was accomplished with no representation by Malays.

The principal target of PULO for bombings was this very railroad; the bombings were always announced and very few were ever hurt. The principal effect was delay and inconvenience to passengers giving them ample time to contemplate the resentment and frustration of Patani. Patani has become the very poorest region in Thailand not least due to the horrific body count.

Despite a massive military and police presence under continuous martial law, since 2004, 4,800 have been killed, 6,000+ wounded, more than 5,000 arrested, 21 executed by death penalty and 21 serving life sentences. While the causes to resort to violence are abundantly clear, unbelievably, govt ‘intelligence’ has not been able to identify the actual insurgents (which they number between 500 and 15,000!) or the sources of their weapons.

Patani’s recent violent insurgency has nothing whatsoever to do historically or logistically with PULO. Yet Thai govt is making Useng a scapegoat for the violence they have been unable to stop by brute military force. In fact, Useng appears to have been sentenced simply for his opinions; the Criminal Court would not have dropped his charges were he accused of any violent act.

Should be be inclined to trust such matters to judicial fairness, note that the Criminal Court of First Instance dropped all charges against Useng. The Public Prosecutor appealed the ruling (of course) and the Appeals Court was inclined to the death penalty. This was precisely the same judicial scenario as that against the three Palace servants accused to regicide in the death of King Ananda.

Keep them coming back to court until we get the right verdict: Guilty!

 

FREE USENG! FREE PATANI!

 

No court orders for Google takedown requests

Let’s examine Google’s statistics on Thailand’s takedown requests more closely. Firstly, Google showed an appalling 100% compliance with MICT censorship, despite the fact that all 149 recorded instances were “Government criticism”—which surely shouldn’t be banned anywhere. It gets worse.

MICT’s censorship is rooted in the Computer Crimes Act, an act which requires that each and every block must be sanctioned by court order.

(The MICT requests for court orders are not looked at by judges but merely rubber-stamped into oblivion. No figures are ever revealed as to URLs blocked, nor are the reasons for blocking made public and even the court orders are kept secret. FACT estimates that, as of June 20, 903,036 webpages had been blocked in Thailand by this system of secret censorship.)

However, the four Google takedown requests, which were all for YouTube video, were not approved by court order. Without a court order, Thai govt’s censorship becomes nor only unConstitutional but criminal.

Jeez, Google, we really want to break up with you because our relationship too often feels like rape…and then you bring us flowers like your Transparency Report!

See also: “Google release Transparency Report: Thailand an unknown quantity” by Lisa Gardner at Siam Voices: http://asiancorrespondent.com/84508/thailands-unknown-quantity-google-releases-transparency-report-assists-authorities-in-blocking-online-content/

http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/government/TH/?p=2011-12

 

Google calls increasing requests to remove political content ‘alarming’

Agence France-Presse: June 18, 2012

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/18/google-calls-increasing-requests-to-remove-political-content-alarming

Political commentary remains a prime target as governments increase the number of requests for Google to remove material from the reach of Internet users.

The Internet giant on Sunday released its fifth semi-annual Transparency Report providing insights into requests by countries around the world to “take down” content from search results or Google venues such as YouTube.

“Just like every other time before, we’ve been asked to take down political speech,” Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou said.

“It’s alarming not only because free expression is at risk, but because some of these requests come from countries you might not suspect — Western democracies not typically associated with censorship.”

The number of requests from the United States doubled in the second half of last year. Ukraine, Jordan and Bolivia showed up for the first time on the list of countries out to have online material removed, according to Google.

Google reported that it went along with slightly more than half of the approximately 1,000 requests it received to remove material or links.

The transparency report doesn’t provide insights regarding countries such as China where tight Internet controls allow for blocking of content, eliminating the need to ask Google to take down content.

From the start of July through December of last year, Google complied with approximately 65 percent of the more that 467 court orders to remove material and with 47 percent of the more than 561 request without judicial backing.

“We noticed that government agencies from different countries would sometimes ask us to remove political content that our users had posted on our services,” Chou said.

Google said the number of requests has grown steadily during the past two years.

Spanish regulators asked Google to remove 270 search results that linked to blogs and articles in newspapers referencing private individuals or public figures, including mayors and public prosecutors.

In Poland, a public institution asked Google to remove links to a website criticizing it. Chou said that Google did not comply with those requests in either country.

An electoral court order from Brazil resulted in Google removing four profiles from its Orkut social network for political content.

Broad defamation laws in Brazil allow for obtaining court orders to remove even truthful information from the Internet, according to Google.

The law there also reportedly bans showing parodies of candidates during elections, leading to requests for removal of material such as bits by celebrity comedians.

Among the requests turned down by Google was one from Canadian officials for the removal of a YouTube video of a Canadian citizen peeing on his passport and flushing it down a toilet.

The number of content removal requests received by Google in India was 49 percent higher in the second half of last year than in the first six months.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology asked Google to remove six YouTube videos that satirized the country’s military and senior politicians. Google did not comply with that request.

Google said it did terminate five YouTube accounts at the behest of the United Kingdom Association of Police Officers, which contended they promoted terrorism.

The Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology in Thailand asked Google to remove 149 YouTube videos for allegedly insulting the monarchy there. Google restricted 70 percent of the videos from view online in Thailand.

Requests from Turkish information technologies officials centered on videos of the founder of modern-day Turkey, and Google responded by making the targeted clips unavailable in that country.

“We realize that the numbers we share can only provide a small window into what’s happening on the Web at large,” Chou said.

“But we do hope that by being transparent about these government requests, we can continue to contribute to the public debate about how government behaviors are shaping our Web.”

(Thanks to intrepid journo Lisa Gardner for pointing this out.)

80 years of ‘democracy’?

FACT honours of Thailand’s National Day, June 24, when revolutionists declared Thailand free of absolute monarchy in 1932. The Father of Thai Democracy, founder of Thammasat University and drafter of Thailand’s first Constitution was Pridi Banomyong.

Although Pridi was unquestionably Thailand’s greatest statesman, he was prime minister as a Free Thai for less than six months in 1946. In 1947, Pridi was forced to flee into exile because of accusations of conspiracy in regicide for the death of the young King Ananda, Rama XIII. This exile appears to have been orchestrated by Thai military strongman Plaek Pibulsongkhram.

Democracy was never permitted to return home and, to this day, even Pridi’s ashes have not been returned to his native soil.

For the revolution, and to honour Pridi Banomyong, FACT wishes to make readers aware of the excellent free resources at Pridi-Phoonsuk.

33 books are available for free PDF download or online reading. (We’ve deleted several hyperlinks which are not working and a few duplicates.) The books are mostly in Thai but there are two books available in English.

http://www.pridi-phoonsuk.org/pr1/

It’s high time to bring back Free Thai!

 Thanks to one of Thailand’s rara aves, independent journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk, at The Nation and Prachatai, for pointing us to these.

8pm, Tuesday, June 19, 2012

(Please see pricing and reservation procedure below)

 

Speaking to the FCCT via Skype 2009, Professor Thongchai Winichakul and Professor Andrew Walker announced a petition – signed by dozens of leading global figures in human rights, civil liberties and academia, to then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, citing Thailand’s Article 112 and urging the government to consider the following:

Please stop seeking more suppressive measures against individuals, web sites, and the peaceful expressions of ideas.

Please consider suggestions to reform the lese majeste law to prevent further abuses and to prevent the possibility of further damage to the international reputation of Thailand and the monarch.

Please consider taking action to withdraw the current lese majeste charges, and working to secure the release of those already convicted under the lese majeste law. They are charged for expressing their ideas. This should not be a crime.

The letter argued that “frequent abuse of the lese majeste law against political opponents undermines democratic processes” and generates “heightened criticism of the monarchy and Thailand itself, both inside and outside the country.”

Three years later, the law remains the same, but debate over 112 has only deepened and widened. The number of cases has shot up. There seems to be no appetite for amendment of the law despite several petitions and much criticism both within and outside Thailand. Yet the law is increasingly an emotional and politically explosive fault line.

Three years on, Andrew Walker and Thongchai Winichakul will speak at the FCCT again via video conference, to review what has transpired since, and assess what may lie in store in the future.

Responding from the FCCT itself and joining the discussion, will be

Dr Chaichana Inkawat, professor of the Faculty of Political Science at Ramkhamhaeng University. A graduate of Thammasat University and a Fulbright Scholar to Cornell University, Dr Chaichana has been faculty at Ramkamheng University for almost four decades. He is also a regular political contributor to independent and state-owned current affairs programmes in Thailand.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director, Prachatai.com, found guilty with a suspended sentence recently, under the Computer Crimes Act for not removing allegedly lese majeste comments from the website quickly enough. Ms Chiranuch is the winner of the International Women’s Media foundation’s 2011 Courage in Journalism award.

Pricing Details:

Members: No cover charge, buffet dinner is 350 baht

Non-members: 300 baht cover charge without buffet dinner or 650 baht for buffet dinner including cover charge

Reservations: To ensure sufficient food for the buffet, we would greatly appreciate your making a buffet reservation at least one day before the program if you plan to join us for the dinner. (No penalty for cancellation if last minute conflicts arise.) Please also note that tables/seats will be reserved only for those with advance buffet bookings. To reserve, please call 02-652-0580-1 or click here to send an e-mail to info@fccthai.com .

 

 

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

Penthouse, Maneeya Center Building

518/5 Ploenchit Road (connected to the BTS Skytrain Chitlom station)

Patumwan, Bangkok 10330

Tel.: 02-652-0580

E-mail:  info@fccthai.com

Web Site:  http://www.fccthai.com

 

Hours of Operation –

All departments are open Monday-Friday and closed Saturday, Sunday, and Holidays

 

Clubhouse

(including Photo Gallery)

10:00 am – 11:00 pm

Restaurant

12:00 noon – 2:30pm

6:00 pm – 9:00pm

Bar

12:00 noon – 11:00 pm

Office

9:30 am – 6:00 pm

 

These videos may well be blocked by the zealous conspirators against the monarchy. However, the content will not be blocked everywhere. Search “YouTube affiliates” to find a source.

“Rhetoric and Dissent: Where to next for Thailand’s lèse majesté law?”

เสวนา 112 ภาคภาษาอังกฤษ

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8WdDtse0kQ&feature=youtu.be

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8WdDtse0kQ

Two ajarns, Ben and Sulak [Yan Martel]

How did I manage to miss this single most brave, factual, outstanding presentation against lèse majesté laws so far in Thailand?!?

There was little, if any, opinion presented to this seminar. In particular, eminent and elderly Thai historians, Benedict Anderson and Saw Sivaraksa (a Royalist who has himself been charged with lèse majesté several times) used a long lens to expose the laws to scrutiny in light of factual history.

This was a brilliant panel called by Australian journalist, Lisa Gardner, a dear friend who consistently demonstrates great insight and cuts through the bullshit. We are privileged to be her friend and celebrate her love for Thailand.

Readers may be interested in the backstory that two venues backtracked on this seminar. Frankly, we are particularly ashamed by the continuing lack of moral fortitude of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, of which several panelists are members. We hope Lisa wears it as a mark of great distinction to be shitcanned by the spineless FCCT.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall resigned as a 17-year Reuters veteran and moved to Singapore to report honestly on Thailand from US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. He of necessity spoke to this seminar by Skype VOIP link. His web postings are blocked in Thailand and he has been declared persona non grata in the Kingdom. It is widely expected he would be charged with lèse majesté should he ever return to Thailand. However, Andrew Marshall is the epitome of journalistic integrity: he never offers us his own opinion. He puts the story together from documented historical sources. And he’s not afraid to confront the death of King Ananda head on.

Ajarn Sulak came to the rescue by offering his foundation as a venue for the seminar. For me, the most fascinating presentation was Sulak’s—he pointed out that Thailand actually didn’t have an absolute monarchy in the sense of absolute control before King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) (in any case, he was the first king to ban books). And that Thailand actually used its Constitutional monarchy until 1948 (I might take exception during the Japanese occupation) when the young and inexperienced King Bhumibol was coopted by a series of military strongmen who perverted the monarchy to their own corrupt ends.

These were political events from which the monarchy in Thailand has never recovered. The shameless self-promotion of Thailand’s monarchy was exposed as simple window-dressing with no substance.

Ajarn Sulak sees the explosion of lèse majesté prosecutions as a conspiracy by politicians loyal to Thaksin to destroy the monarchy and, of course, install the fugitive as first ruler of a new republic upon his triumphant return. The pols are doing a pretty good job of it so far so it’s not much of a stretch to find this believable. The question remains who is responsible for this plot to end the monarchy and who are the hoodwinked, gullible patsies playing into their hands.

Thai govt is already laying waste to our powerful and fragile Constitution. Who can doubt their plans to bring down the monarchy are far behind?

A Khao Sod reporter in the question period commented that he didn’t think anything he’d heard would be reported in his newspaper. So far, neither English daily offered any reportage, either. Are the Thai media who support L-M prosecutions part of the republican plot or are they fools?

Ajarn Sulak finds evidence to support the view King Bhumibol is against these laws. Intrepid journalist (and FACT signer) Pravit presented for the first time stunning news about King Bhumibol’s opinion regarding the use of lèse majesté laws. At the L-M trial of Redshirt editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, a prosecution witness responded to a defence assertion that the King opposed the laws by saying that, even so, these are the laws.

For ease of viewing this two-and-a-quarter hour presentation, Lisa’s introductions and the panelists begin at approximately the following times: Pravit Rojanaphruk at 00:00; Dr. Benedict Anderson at 21:50; Ajarn Sulak Sivaraksa at 40:00; Andrew MacGregor Marshall at 50:00; Lisa Gardner’s conclusion and question period at 1:09:00.

Lisa had one sucker-punch message for MICT: “You can’t stop the Internet!”

This panel, more than any other, has given me hope that freedom of expression will prevail in Thailand. Every presenter was gifted a bottle of wine (whisky for Scots Andrew) by Lisa and shared with the audience.

Thank you, Lisa and all for a wonderful evening on YouTube, even if I missed the main event!

7 June 2012

[Author’s note: Links shown on this version were not originally sent with the initial mailing to the State Department.]

United States Department of State

Attention: Cheryl Mills

Counselor of the Department

Phone: 202-663-1848 Fax: 202-663-3636 [rings but does not provide fax signal] TDD: 202-663-3468

Email:  aoprgsmauth@state.gov

Kingdom of Thailand Legal Jurisdiction within Sovereign Boundaries of the United States of America

Greetings:

As the Department of State is well aware, US citizen Joe Gordon is still in a Thai prison [See USA-based Orange Shirt anti-LM group  http://www.orangeshirtsusa.com/], reportedly awaiting a Royal Pardon for a lese majeste conviction over actions he took while still within the United States. Also reportedly the Thai Ministry of Justice has approved the pardon and it has been referred to the Bureau of the Royal Household for review and approval.

Joe’s case and other instances of Thai enactment of criminal jurisdiction inside the United States [http://works.bepress.com/mark_pearson/]. See academic expert in this.] has become a serious matter of concern for all Americans. These cases raise the issue of whether or not Thailand has the right to profess, let alone actually effect as it has, jurisdiction of its repressive freedom of expression laws within the sovereign boundaries of the United States of America [See foreign internet content jurisdiction principle supported [http://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/litigationnews/2008/january/0108_article_plaintiff.html].

Our First Amendment [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_First_Amendment US First Amendment] rights were in a partial manner further protected by the President’s signing of the 2010 Speech Act [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SPEECH_Act], but it is the issue of actual jurisdiction – real and claimed – by the Kingdom of Thailand within the United States [Thai Criminal Code, various sections, but see Sections 5,6,7,8, 9 and Defamation provisions beginning 326] that seems to require clarification, citation, and certainly Department and public discussion.

Your kind attention to this issue, and hopeful reply which helps clarify this alarming Thai claim and more alarming application of the kingdom’s legal jurisdiction over American persons, will be deeply appreciated.

 

Sincerely,

Frank G Anderson

 

Chiranuch, and all netizens, are now criminals in Thailand

Over 100 observers, supporters and media thronged Bangkok’s Criminal Court, including diplomatic representatives from the embassies to Thailand of at least eleven countries, to hear the final countdown for intrepid Thai journalist, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, on charges of lèse majesté.

Chiranuch, who was honoured in 2011 with the Courage in Journalism award by the International Women’s Media Foundation and with Human Right Watch’s Hellman/Hammett Award for journalists under threat. In 2012, Chiranuch was honoured as one of Time Magazine’s Women in the World: 150 Fearless Women,

Chiranuch faced down 10 counts of lèse majesté in a 15-day trial under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act 2007 promulgated by a government by military coup d’etat. The webmaster was one of only a handful of accused to go head-to-head with Thai government and plead not guilty.

The 10 charges, each carrying a potential sentence of five years in prison, mitigated to ‘only’ 20 years because they involved a single law, did not originate with Chiranuch. Each of the charges resulted from a comment made pseudonymously to the public Prachatai webboard, meant to encourage a public conversation.

Testimony elicited that Thailand’s government censor, the ICT ministry, had previously requested of Chiranuch takedowns of materials they found objectionable. And she had always cooperated.

However, during the military coup period of intense political speculation, Pracharai found itself overwhelmed by a volume of thousands of public comments every day. The ICT ministry must have been similarly swamped because, by action or omission, no request was made to Prachatai for removal.

There may well have been sinister political actors at work to take down Prachatai. In any case, when martial law was invoked in April 2010 during extrajudicial murders by Thailand’s military, Prachatai was the first website to be deleted, resulting in a high-tech cat-and-mouse game as Prachatai struggled to remain available…and succeeded.

This may well have provided politicians the incentive to directly challenge Prachatai’s webmaster in a major, and unnecessary, daytime police raid resulting in the seizure of Prachatai’s servers and Chiranuch’s personal laptop.

As webboard comments were analysed 10 were found to be possible lèse majesté. However, the lèse majesté statutes of Thailand’s Criminal Code are very specific, engaging the precision of any democratic rule of law. The “crime” of lèse majesté means only one thing: to threaten, insult or defame Thailand’s monarchy.

Unfortunately for public prosecutors, none of these three were apparent in any of the comments made on Prachatai. In fact, the posters of all ten comments were personally identified and never prosecuted, save one: she was acquitted. Instead, government posted a bullseye on Chiranuch Premchaiporn.

Chiranuch’s seminal case involving freedom of expression and a free media became a cause célèbre for media and human rights activists worldwide. Suddenly, Thailand’s human rights record was under scrutiny with even the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression weighing in in her favour.

The result was that Thai courts could not find her not guilty, imagining all kinds of demons in the closet just waiting to take advantage of any loophole in the laws, but nor could they sentence her to prison.

Today’s resulting verdict was both compromise and capitulation. Chiranuch was found not guilty of allowing nine of the webboard comments to remain for an extended period of time but guilty of one which remain unnoticed, and therefore unremoved, for 20 days. The judge reasoned that this omission must mean that the webmaster agreed with the comment.

In fact, webmasters are human. They need food and rest and entertainment and diversion and even holidays just like everyone.

If Chiranuch had been requested to take down this comment overlooked, no doubt she would have, as she had acquiesced to every single MICT request in the past.

The comment was similarly overlooked by the censors at the ICT ministry but, unfortunately, we did not see them so accused in court to defend their position.

Every intermediary in Thailand can now be charged on the flimsiest of pretexts to curb dissent. This can only be described as the next level in Thai government’s creation of a police state in which freedom of expression is just a dream. Thailand is the next Burma, complete with the military in firm control.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn was sentenced today to eight months in prison, reduced from one year, suspended due to her testimony on her own behalf which the court found useful in its deliberations, and a THB20,000 fine, reduced from THB30,000.

Judge Kampol’s ‘lenient’ decision was neither compromise nor capitulation reflecting the reality of the Internet as a tool for freedom of expression. The fact that Chiranuch did not win an outright acquittal is a barely-veiled threat against the rest of us.

Judge Kampol signalled netizens a clear message in his decision:

Chiranuch should never have been convicted on the words of another. Thai courts have now established a precedent in which we must all be our brothers’ keepers. Government is no longer required to act as policeman and censor, we are.

In expanding the definition of lèse majesté to personal culpability for the free speech of someone else, Chiranuch Premchaiporn was not the only person found guilty in Criminal Court today.

You and I, as netizens, can be charged thus at any given moment, with police raids and seizure of our computers at daybreak. We were all found guilty today. No doubt Thai government has thrown down a gauntlet to see more and more of us guilty tomorrow.

Criminal court, in the very best of circumstances, is a lonely place to be, a hyperreality in which one’s very freedom is at stake. It is great measure of Jiew’s courage to have faced this monster alone. She did it for freedom for all of us.

Jiew’s new freedom may not last long. She was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport on September 24, 2010 on her return from Google’s Internet at Liberty 2010 conference in Budapest. She stands accused of lèse majesté by Khon Kaen businessman Sunimit Jirasuk for readers’ comments appearing on Prachatai in April 2008. Chiranuch was charged using Articles 112, 116 and the Computer Crimes Act.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn is waiting trial on THB 200,000 bail and still faces 20 years in prison.

CJ Hinke

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)

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