Nightmare in Thai cyberspace

There seems to be a worrying trend emerging in our northern neighbouring country as far as Internet freedom is concerned. See here for more.

  

Thailand: Blogger’s Conviction Shocks Internet Freedom Activists

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

BANGKOK, Apr 8 (IPS) – Suwicha Thakhor’s nightmare in a Thai jail is set to continue after a court delivered a harsh verdict this week that contained a unequivocal message – the Internet in this country is being policed with the aim of limiting free expression.

On Apr. 3, the criminal court sentenced the 34-year-old father of three children to 10 years in jail for posting an image on the Internet that was deemed to have insulted the Thai royal family. Suwicha’s sentence – initially for the maximum of 20 years but reduced to half – has pushed this South-east Asian nation to join the ranks of countries where bloggers can be imprisoned for expressing their views, such as Thailand’s western neighbour, military-ruled Burma.

The verdict also saw the three judges who presided over this groundbreaking case take measures that went against the grain of an open trial, which is often the case in other criminal cases. Reporters present in the wooden panelled chamber were ordered not to take notes of the proceedings. The court also did not say how the defamatory photos were doctored.

The crimes Suwicha had committed included violating the 2007 computer crime law, which came into force when Thailand was under the grip of a junta that staged a coup in September 2006, the country’s 18th putsch. This law, criticised for being a crackdown on the freedoms of the country’s cyber community, threatens violators with maximum five-year jail term.

He was also tried for breaking the draconian lèse majesté law, which has been in the penal code for the past 100 years to prosecute anyone who expresses a view that tarnishes the image of the revered royal family. Violators face a maximum of 15 years in jail.

”This is the longest sentence in recent times for a lèse majesté-related offence,” says David Streckfuss, a U.S. academic who has written extensively on the Thai law aimed at insulating the monarchy from criticism.

”This is the first case of an Internet user convicted under the computer crime act related to national security or lèse majesté,” adds Supinya Klangnarong, a media rights campaigner who head the Thai Netizens Network, a group lobbying for the rights of Internet users. ”The sentence came as a shock. It means that this could happen to any Internet user in Thailand.”

”Panic, fear, frustration and anxiety will grow among the Thai Internet community,” she warned during an interview. ”It seems like the computer crime act has become a tool to go after people. We have not seen nor are aware of what he did in cyberspace.”

Suwicha’s lawyer concurs. ”This case sends out a message to the Internet community that they have to be very careful, because they can be easily targeted, easily prosecuted,” Teerapan Pankeeree told IPS outside the courtroom. ”Internet isn’t a free space, a liberal space anymore.” There are some 14 million Internet users in this country of close to 66 million people.

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7 Responses to “Nightmare in Thai cyberspace”


  1. 1 Antares 12 April 2009 at 11:02 am

    This shows the dangers and evils of subscribing to an antediluvian social and spiritual hierarchy wherein the guy who lives in the biggest house (and has the biggest cellar, a private army and controls the city jail) can claim to be God’s next-of-kin and therefore the only person qualified to call the shots on everything. The complete opposite of democracy.

  2. 2 Ben 12 April 2009 at 10:11 pm

    In recent months many South East Asian countries are tightening their control on bloggers. I think this trend will go on for a few more years – It has to do with how soon the younger leaders take over the control of leadership in these countries. There is no way for older leaders to come to terms with cyber-freedom …

  3. 3 Samuel Goh Kim Eng 13 April 2009 at 12:42 am

    LIMITED FREEDOM IN CYBERSPACE

    In the land of the free
    Cyberspace is not quite so
    Free like a free flying bee
    Being restricted in what it can sow

    (C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng – 130409
    http://MotivationInMotion.blogspot.com
    Mon. 13th Apr. 2009.

  4. 4 mormonsoprano 13 April 2009 at 3:24 am

    This is a tragedy. Shame on Thailand! Bloggers world-wide are being targeted by anti-freedom regimes. In March, a 29-year old blogger named Omidreza Mirsayfi died in prison in Iran. His death has sparked terror and anger amoung Iranian and International bloggers alike, as Mirsayfi was not a radical by any stretch. His posts included mild criticism of the Iranian political leadership, and most posts centered on music reviews and band interviews. I just finished reading an article released this morning by the AP which states that there are at least 68 bloggers imprisoned around the world currently – including nearly 50 in China alone. These cowardly and injust acts of government intimidation will never quell the human spirit. All human beings long for freedom of expression, and ultimately I believe they will triumph.

  5. 5 keptquisling 13 April 2009 at 4:01 am

    That’s horrible, oh wait, I live in a equally crappy hovel


  1. 1 Pages tagged "liberal" Trackback on 12 April 2009 at 10:31 am

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