Thai Netizen Network: Request for Clarification Regarding The Arrests of Internet Users
Pursuant to the following cases (bold items highlighted by Thai Netizen Network)
- 1. On 13 October 2009, Department of Special Investigation (DSI) brought Nat Sattayapornpisut, 27, who has been charged with lèse majesté, to the Court to request initial detention. The request to the Court revealed that DSI had earlier requested permission from the court to access information in the e-mail account of one Emilio Esteban, a 46 year-old Briton living in Spain, who has been publishing contents deemed offensive to the throne on his weblog. Police investigation revealed that during the period of 21-23 July 2009, Nat e-mailed links to offensive 3 clips to Emilio, which were the same clips that are published on his weblog. Subsequently, DSI requested arrest warrant from the Criminal Court. (reference: ASTV Manager newspaper, 15 October 2009 – http://www.manager.co.th/Crime/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9520000122735)
- In late October and early November 2009, the police arrested 3 suspects with the charge of violating Clause 14 of the Computer Crime Act, i.e. “bringing into the computer system such false computer information as may damage national security or cause panic among the populace.” The arrests were made after the spread of rumors in the Stock Exchange of Thailand caused investor panic and the market to plunge between 13-15 October 2009 (reference: Kom Chad Leuk newspaper, 3 November 2009 – http://www.komchadluek.net/detail/20091103/35639/รวบเสี่ยโต๊ะสนุกชลผู้ต้องหาทุบหุ้นอีก.html)
Thai Netizen Network is of the opinion that the authorities’ access to Mr. Emilio’s e-mail in the first case, and the investigation and prosecution process of suspects in the second, may be an abuse of power and misuse of the Computer Crime Act in ways that violated the right to privacy and freedom of communication, which are protected by virtue of Clause 35 and 36 in the Constitution of Thailand.
In addition, the arrest of 3 suspects in the second case may be the case of suppressing people’s rights and freedom of communication, since the suspects may not know whether the rumor being disseminated was true or false, and he or she may not have intended to harm national security or cause panic. We believe that the only case which may prove that the suspects willfully disseminated false rumors is if they were part of a concerted share manipulation rings, which is a criminal offense under the Securities Act.
Given the aforementioned situation, Thai Netizen Network has the following requests to all relevant authorities:
- We ask that the authorities disclose the means of accessing Mr. Emilio’s e-mail account and the law that entitled the authorities to do so, since this matter may have violated people’s right to privacy and freedom to communicate;
- We ask that the authorities disclose the approach they are using in the investigation of share manipulation case, so as not to cause undue panic among Internet users, and be mindful of the people’s rights to expression and communication as guaranteed by the Constitution;
- We ask that the authorities attempt to arrest the real culprits, not information intermediaries or service providers, since prosecuting intermediaries will result in numerous unwanted economic, social, and cultural consequences. In addition, it will make the arrest of real criminals ever more difficult and cumbersome to undertake, which will further hurt public interest.
Lastly, we would like to call on all mass media and the public to jointly monitor the government’s use of power, and to join us in calling for the reform of Computer Crime Act, especially Clause 14 which is worded so vaguely that it can easily be abused for political gain and suppressing people’s rights and freedoms. We also call for the passage of the law to protect private information, to help public officials and every party involved to distinguish between citizens who merely exercise their right to free expression and criminals who used computers to commit crimes, more correctly and clearly than ever.
With confidence in the right, freedom, and integrity of all citizens,
Thai Netizen Network
9 November 2009