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Independent news website to close down message board due to restrictive online environment

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Thailand's independent online news website, Prachatai, announced on 8 July 2010 that it will close down its web board at the end of the month as the online environment in the kingdom gets more restrictive.

Prachatai executive director Chiranuch Premchaiporn, herself facing 10 counts of violating the harsh Computer Crimes Act, said in a note posted on Prachatai's Facebook account that they decided to close down the web board, which has long served as a venue for debate of political issues, as "the media and posters alike face the threat of sweeping accusations that they are a 'threat to national security' through the use of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, the Emergency Decree and Section 112 of the Criminal Code."

On 31 May, Chiranuch pleaded not guilty to the 10 charges of violating the Computer Crimes Act filed against her by the government. The cases stemmed from her alleged failure in 2008 to immediately take down from the web board, as Prachatai's webmaster, comments deemed insulting to the monarchy. Her trial will commence in 2011.

She said that several individuals were arrested in the past due to the messages they posted on the board.

The web board of Prachatai became a popular venue for online political debates soon after the 2006 coup that ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

However, as the political conflict in Thailand intensified, Prachatai's website and its web board were constantly kept under tight watch, not to mention blocking, by the government. The board's URL had to be changed from http://www.prachataiwebboard.com to http://www.prachataiboard1.info due to government efforts to block it. The main website, on the other hand, underwent no less than seven URL changes as the government kept shutting it down.

Despite the impending closure of the web board, Chiranuch said the Prachatai website would continue to operate. Its current URL is http://www.prachatai3.info/english .

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