Thai Netizen Network

Police arrest Web director of Prachatai for lese majeste

Crime Suppression police yesterday raided the office of non-profit online newspaper Prachatai, accusing its Web director of violating the Computer Act by posting lese-majeste comments.

Web director Chiranuch Premchaiporn was arrested on a charge of committing a computer crime, because she allowed the offending comments to be posted on Prachatai’s Web board.

The website said Chiranuch denied the allegation and would agree to be interrogated only in front of her lawyer.

Five police officers arrived at the office late yesterday afternoon to conduct a search. They confiscated Chiranuch’s computer.

The Web director has a duty to monitor all comments on the website and delete any improper ones. Prachatai consistently censors improper or rude comments on its website and Web board.

Police said the offending comments had been left on the on the Web board for 20 days.

A Prachatai official said police and the Information and Communications Technology Ministry always issued a warning when such comments were found on the website but that there had been no warning this time.

The official said there was no clear criteria for judging what kind of comments and content on the Web might be deemed to constitute lese majeste. Police did not show the posted comments in question.

Violators of the Computer Act are liable to not more than five years in jail and/or a fine of not more than Bt100,000.

The authorities have launched a crackdown on websites accused of posting lese-majeste content. Many websites based inside and outside the country have been blocked.

A dozen individuals have been arrested on lese-majeste charges recently, such as former PM’s office minister Jakrapob Penkair, social critic Sulak Sivaraksa and Australian English teacher Harry Nicolaides. Some who have been arrested under the Computer Act include reporter Suwicha Thakhor and Chiranuch.

A group of 50 international academics called on the government to reform the Lese Majeste Act and release all detainees charged under it.

Supinya Klangnarong, a media activist representing a network of Internet users, said the arrest could sow fear among the media and Internet users. Police should have asked the Web director to explain herself.

She said police were only trying to curry favour with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva after his speech stressing libel laws.

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