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Friday, February 4, 2011

Thai webmaster faces 20 years for violating Internet laws

Reader comments allegedly defamed the monarchy
Fri Feb 04 2011, 11:31
A THAI WEBSITE MANAGER is facing up to 20 years in prison for failing to remove comments that were critical of the country's monarchy.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who manages the website, faces 10 separate charges for not promptly deleting the messages. She has been prosecuted under the 2007 Computer Crime Act, reported the Associated Press. The Act was supposed to address hacking but is now being used to "bar circulation of material deemed detrimental to national security or that causes public panic."

Websites like Prachatai were closed during the political unrest in Bangkok last year, after the government accused them of stirring up unrest among 'red shirt' protestors who wanted political change. With cases like this, the Thai state has been using the Act as a tool for political punishment, closing websites and arresting people who don't follow its authoritarian agenda.

Premchaiporn has been accused of not removing comments on bulletin boards that allegedly insulted the royal family, which comes under the broad definition of the Computer Crime Act. You can also be charged in Thailand for lèse-majesté, the simple act of insulting the monarchy, for which Premchaiporn also faces punishment.

The monarchy is a huge thing in Thailand. Respect for the King means that there are laws that can put people in prison for defaming him. This has always been the case, but the problem seems to be the way the government is using the laws to suppress the opposition and the media, rather than actually protect the royal family. µ

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