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Thais consider cost of three-year-old Computer Crime Act to free expression

(SEAP/IFEX) - 2 August 2010 - It has been three years since the enactment of Thailand's controversial Computer Crime Act, a law that critics and experts say has had a troubling and detrimental impact on free expression in the country.

The law was introduced in 2007 under the post-coup government of General Surayudh Chulanont. In that context it was immediately assailed as a political weapon by critics who claimed that the legislation was passed to stifle online discussions and criticism of the coup that ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as to head off debates about the roles and influence of the military and the monarchy in the Kingdom's realities.

Beyond the realities and rationale behind its enactment, however, the Computer Crime Act has been criticized for its vague provisions and harsh penalties. The law empowers authorities to block or shut down websites deemed as harmful by the State, and it can also mete out prison terms over disputed news, commentary, and information disseminated online, and thus have a chilling effect on people's behavior and discussions over the Internet.

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