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Saturday, November 6, 2010

THAILAND: Campaign page launched for Prachatai director

(Hong Kong, November 5, 2010) The Asian Human Rights Commission on Wednesday launched a new campaign webpage on the case of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the director of the independent online news service Prachatai, who is facing multiple criminal charges over material that readers posted onto her website.

The webpage, which is mostly in English but also contains some material in Thai, consists of appeals, commentary and links to other relevant contents both on Chiranuch's case and on issues of freedom of expression in Thailand. It can be accessed at:
If convicted of the 10 charges, under Thailand's nebulous and draconian computer crimes and lese-majesty laws, Chiranuch could be imprisoned for up to 50 years.

"The cases against Chiranuch are indicative of how the law in Thailand is increasingly being used as a tool to attack rather than defend fundamental human rights," Basil Fernando, director of policy and programmes at the AHRC, said.

"That she has to criss-cross the country to answer charges in whatever provinces they were lodged against her over website contents that she herself did not author is sheer nonsense, deserving of the strongest condemnation by right-minded people everywhere," Fernando said.

Pointing out that whereas in Thailand there are no criminal offences defining torture or enforced disappearance, the policy director of the Hong Kong based-regional rights group remarked that for Internet crimes to carry lengthy prison terms illustrates how authoritarian and militarized governments use law with increasing cynicism.

"These so-called offences reveal not any wrongdoing on the part of the individual concerned, but only wrongdoing on the part of a rampaging police state," Fernando added.

The AHRC has since 2006 spoken against both the resurgence in what it has described as the internal-security state in Thailand and the rapidly deteriorating conditions for freedom of expression there.

In its 2009 report, it characterized the attacks on Prachatai and its director as forming "part of a pattern under the internal-security state to target certain groups and individuals for harassment, arrest and prosecution as a warning to others not to overstep the many boundaries that prohibit free debate on topics of great importance to the country and its people, including through the use of lese-majesty and criminal defamation laws, as well numerous other ambiguous offences that may be stretched to cover just about anybody and any situation".

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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