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Royal pardon for Internet user serving 10-year sentence for lèse majesté

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the pardon that King Bhumibol Adulyadej issued on 28 June 2010 to Suvicha Thakhor, who was serving a 10-year jail sentence on a lèse majesté charge for allegedly using software to modify photos of the royal family before posting them online.

"Prison was very tough," Suvicha told Reporters Without Borders after his release. "At first I was completely shattered. I hit rock bottom. I had to fight to survive. Fortunately my family visited me often. I kept going by following the teachings of Buddhism and practising meditation. I now feel fine but I have lost my job. I will probably become a monk for a while."

Suvicha added: "It pains me to think of the four or five other people who are still in prison on lèse majesté charges, the political prisoners and other detainees. The current situation in Thailand is very worrying. It is a difficult time for the country. I thank all those who helped me, including Reporters Without Borders, for keeping up the pressure all the time I was held."

While welcoming Suvicha's release, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its condemnation of the political use that is made of lèse majesté legislation and calls for its reform. It is used to violate freedom of expression and impose disproportionate sentences ranging from three to 15 years in prison. The riots are finished in Bangkok, but the battle is now being waged on the Internet, where around 5,000 web pages are still censored.

An ordinary Internet user, Suvicha was arrested in February 2009 in the northeastern province of Nakhon Phanom and was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 3 April 2009 by a criminal court in Ratchada (a northeastern district of the capital) on a charge of lèse majesté.

Thailand is listed as a "Country under surveillance" in the Reporters Without Borders annual update of the "Enemies of the Internet" that was released on 11 March.

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