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King asked to pardon Internet users prosecuted on lese majeste and national security charges

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has written to King Bhumibol Adulyadej on the eve of his birthday on 5 December asking him to pardon Thai Internet users who are in jail or who are being prosecuted in connection with the dissident views they allegedly expressed online.

"By agreeing to this request, the king would show the entire world that he respects freedom of expression and would be putting into practice what he said on 5 December 2005 about protecting this freedom," Reporters Without Borders said.

The letter urges the king to release Suwicha Thakor, a blogger who is being held in Klong Prem prison. Suwicha was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 3 April on a charge of lese majeste although there was no evidence against him. He is neither a politician nor an activist, and never criticised the king or posted articles about him.

A pardon for this innocent man who has already suffered too much would serve as a gesture that confirmed what the king said on his birthday in 2005. "In reality, I am not above criticism," the king said. "I do not fear criticism if it concerns what I do wrong. It is thanks to this that I will be able to realise my mistakes. If you say the king cannot be criticised, it means the king is not a man."

The letter also asked the king to intercede to obtain the withdrawal of all charges against the following Internet users:

- Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a political science professor at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, who was charged with lese majeste on 20 January in connection with a book he authored entitled "A coup for the rich", published in 2007, which can be downloaded from his website. He never criticised the king.

- Jonathan Head, the BBC's Southeast Asia correspondent, who was accused of lese majeste by Lt. Col. Wattanasak Shinawatra on 23 December 2008 without any evidence. There is no information about the current state of the investigation against him.

- Nat Sattayapornpisut, a blogger who was held for 10 days in October for sending video links to a blogger in Spain who is campaigning for the repeal of the lese majeste law. Nat was accused of breaking the 2007 Computer Crime Act but no decision has so far been taken on his case.

- Praya Pichai, a blogger who was accused in September 2007 of criticising the royal family. The public prosecutor has until 2017 to decide whether or not to prosecute him, which is unacceptable from the viewpoint of both the right to defence and the right to free expression.

- Tasaparn Rattawongsa, a doctor at Thon Buri hospital, Theeranan Wipuchan, a former UBS Securities executive, Katha Pajajiriyapong, an employee at the KT ZMICO brokerage house, and Somchets Ittiworakul. All four are charged under section 14 of the 2007 Computer Crime Act with posting false information endangering national security for seeking an explanation for the fall in the Bangkok stock exchange ( http://www.rsf.org/Three-Internet-users-arrested-for.html and http://www.rsf.org/Online-censorship-and-arrests-of.html ).

"We hope that King Bhumibol Adulyadej will respond positively to this request for a royal pardon," Reporters Without Borders said. "By violating the freedom of expression of Thailand's citizens, charges of lese majeste and endangering national security under the 2007 Computer Crime Act are hurting the image of both the king and his kingdom."
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