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Saturday, September 25, 2010

AI Demands the release of online news editor

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, an online news editor in Thailand, was arrested on 24 September under the country’s 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act. She is being held in Khon Kaen police station in north-eastern Thailand. Chiranuch Premchaiporn is a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression, and should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn is the Executive Director of Prachatai (Thai People), a Thai online media portal that contains news, opinion, and a forum for discussion about current affairs in the country. Thailand's Immigration Police (Investigation and Suppression Division) arrested Chiranuch Premchaiporn on 24 September at around 2.30pm (Thailand time) at passport control in Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. She had just arrived back in Thailand from a brief trip abroad. She was shown an arrest warrant, dated 8 September, relating to material posted on the Prachatai website in April 2008 and that, according to the warrant, endangers Thailand's national security. 

This material was written and posted by an unknown Prachatai reader, not Chiranuch Premchaiporn herself. She cannot stop people from posting to the site, but can remove material once it is posted.  Chiranuch Premchaiporn can be held for up to 48 days without trial under the Thai Criminal Code.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn was previously charged on 6 March 2009 with violating Sections 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act, which relates to offences that endanger national security. She was released on bail, and is awaiting trial for those charges, which in total could lead to a 50-year prison sentence.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn's latest arrest warrant contains charges under the same sections of the Act. However, it is not clear if there are additional charges under other sections of the Act or indeed other laws.

Additional Information
Thailand has seen a backward slide in its respect of freedom of expression in the past 18 months. The Thai government’s increasing misuse of the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act has led to a sharp increase in monitoring of the internet for lese majeste (insult to the monarchy) content and in blocks of over ten thousand websites. This broad-ranging censorship of websites in itself constitutes a violation of Thailand’s obligations under international human rights law. The Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged in December 2009 that there were problems with the Act’s enforcement.

The Thai government has frequently used the 2007 Computer-related Crimes Act to uphold the country’s lese majeste law in a growing trend of censorship to silence peaceful political dissent. The lese majeste law goes beyond reasonable restrictions on freedom of expression provided for under international human rights law.

Amnesty International is concerned with the Thai government’s characterization of the lese majeste law as a matter of national security (and the subsequent decision in June 2009 to hold a trial of alleged lese majeste behind closed doors on that basis). The same argument about protection of national security is now being used to arbitrarily detain Chiranuch Premchaiporn.


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