Lese majeste prompts police raid on offices
Crime Suppression Division (CSD) police yesterday raided the office of Prachatai’s political website and took its webmaster into custody accusing her of violating the Computer Act.
About 10 CSD officers led by Pol Col Satit Tachayapop, deputy CSD commander, went to the (prachatai.com) office yesterday. Armed with a search warrant dated March 5, 2008, they searched the office and detained Cheeranuch Premchaiphorn, the webmaster.
The CSD team accused her of violating Article 15 of the Computer Act as well as disseminating lese majeste content on the website from Oct 15 to Nov 3 last year.
The police interrogated her for hours and copied all files from her personal computer. Chantana Banpasirichote, a political lecturer from Chulalongkorn University, yesterday used her position to guarantee Ms Cheeranuch’s bail.
Chuwat Lertkitisuk, the website editor, said the police raid could have been prompted by certain messages posted on the site’s web board.
A lot of messages have been posted, and the webmasters might not be quick enough to delete alleged lese majeste messages from the web board, he said.
CSD officers also seized PCs and relevant documents as evidence, he said.
“This is obviously media intimidation and the latest case of using lese majeste as a tool to curb freedom of expression,” said Mr Chuwat.
Prachatai.com was founded by former senator Jon Ungpakorn four years ago. Its aim was to criticise the Thaksin Shinawatra government’s populist policies and its media interventions. A number of prominent social critics and activists have contributed the content for the website. In the post-Sept 19 coup, prachatai.com had become a popular online forum for anti-coup groups.
Mr Chuwat also called on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to revise the lese majeste law which he says is widely abused for political purposes.
Earlier in the day, Mr Abhisit said he will make the lese majeste law clearer to the public and will consult relevant authorities about the possibility of revamping it next week.
According to Mr Abhisit, problems related to lese majeste in the past are more to do with the way authorities enforce the law, not the context of the law itself. He added the lese majeste law is not a special law. It is in fact a part of the criminal code.
The issuance of new regulations to underpin the law’s enforcement procedure might be necessary, he added.
Mr Abhisit denied his plan to amend the law stemmed from criticisms from abroad.
About 50 international academics recently signed a letter demanding he amend the lese majeste law.
He said his plan to make changes to the law was intended to ensure justice in society, not to favour the academics. Any amendment will not have any effect on lese majeste cases in the past.
Suthep Thaugsuban, deputy prime minister for national security, took a tougher stance against the lese majeste law amendment.
“Whoever tries to persuade me to amend the law, I won’t agree with them. I won’t let anybody defame the monarchy. At the same time, I will make sure no one can use the monarchy as a tool to abuse others,” he said.
source: Prachatai’s webmaster held by CSD, Bangkok Post, 7 Mar 2009Tags: human rights, press freedom