‘Thailand’s Mick Fealty’ on trial

As local politicos, hacks, twitterati and bloggers prepare for this evening’s Slugger Awards, let’s spare a thought for Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Thailand’s Mick Fealty, currently on trial in Bangkok. Her crime? Not removing comments quickly enough from a web forum. If found guilty, she faces the prospect of decades in jail.

Ms Premchaiporn runs Prachatai (Thai People), an online newspaper and web forum which offers news, analysis and comment in a country with severe restrictions on the mainstream media.

The comments at the heart of the case were posted on the site in 2008, and discussed the place of the royal family in Thailand and the 2006 military coup. It is alleged that the comments are offensive to Thailand’s monarchy, violating the country’s draconian lèse majesté law, and a risk to national security. She removed the controversial comments when Thai officials complained. But it was too late. She is now accused of 10 different violations of the Computer Crime Act.

Prachatai estimates that in 2008, 2,500 new comments were posted each day on the site. Even on a good day, I’d say this puts Slugger a little in the shade! Premchaiporn is the sole full-time moderator.

To get a sense of wider online censorship in Thailand, it’s worth noting that the authorities there announced in June 2010 that they had blocked access to some 43,908 websites. In an international press freedom index of 178 nations compiled by Reporters Without Borders, Thailand came 153rd place last year.

So, this evening at the Black Box, let’s celebrate press freedom and the role of the blogger in political life and remember that not everyone enjoys the same liberties. Hope to see some of you there.

  • “Hope to see some of you there.”

    Maybe Chiranuch Premchaiporn can be quest of honour next year?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “Decades in jail” ?
    That of course would be a concern as indeed is the notion that other nations are more oppressive about “internet freedom” than is the norm in Britain and Ireland.
    But middle sized nations such as Thailand seem to get disproportionate criticism than major players in limiting freedom …..USA (wikileaks) and China (everything)

  • fitzjameshorse1745: “decades in jail” ?
    According to Time magazine, “additional charges could add 32 years to the 50 years in prison Chiranuch faces if convicted for all the alleged computer violations.”

  • oracle

    Letting someone post that there is no need for a monarchy and Thailand should be a republic

    ****** possible 82 years in jail ******

    Selling a 17 year old girl to a fat sweaty moronic westerner devoid of either morals or body hygene for his sexual gratification

    ****** possible millionaire *****

    hmmmm can’t help think the Thai’s are in dire need of a sense of moral ethics

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    “could add 32 years to 50 years”.
    I see.
    Of course what “could” happen and what “will” happen might well be different things. And I wonder what service it actually is to Ms Premchaiporn that the prospect of her being sentenced to 80 years in prison is being presented as a very real possibility.
    Frankly I cant see myself waking up to this news at any date in the near future. And this kinda sensationalism as I see it undermines Amnesty rather than supporting it.

    Quite clearly we should be on the side of Ms Premchaiporn. Certainly if I was convicted and sentenced for every occasion I ridiculed monarchy or called for its overthrow, then I “could” be in prison for a very long time (I suppose its illegal) yet the actual reality is that I wont be. Obviously I dont live in Thailand.

  • FJH makes some very valid points and as I read them my immediately thought is that we could be conditioning observers to accept, say, five years sentence as Ms Premchaiporn being fortunate –that she should now shut up and serve her time.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Indeed Mr Walsh.
    The 80 years in jail just looks like sensationalism.
    The reality is that there is no democracy in Thailand. Its a brutal nasty regime without freedom of speech.
    Being fined £10 would be an injustice.
    So would five years in jail.
    So would 80 years……and Mr Walsh is right……sensationalising the story ……….as I see it……does the lady no favours.
    If she gets five years, theres a temptation to say that “it could have been worse”. And frankly the next time we see a similar Amnesty campaign, we might think that they are “crying wolf”.

    Of course one lesson of the “crying wolf” fable is that the boy was (in the end) right.

  • “Of course one lesson of the “crying wolf” fable is that the boy was (in the end) right.”

    From a human rights perspective, being right in the end is not of much consolation, when the damage is done.