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Blogger released on bail, faces charges

(SEAPA/IFEX) - A recent graduate from Kasetsart University was arrested on charges of lese majeste over his writings on his blog. He was released after spending three nights in prison when his family members posted a land title for his 500,000 baht (approx. US$17,000) bail on 8 August 2011, according to online news site Prachatai.com.

The arrest of Norawase Yospiyasathien, 22, came after the University deputy rector, Nipon Limlamtong, filed a charge under the lese majeste law and the Computer Crimes Act in 2010. Norawase's blog messages, posted while he was still in his fourth year in accounting, were first spotted by the university students. The deputy rector reportedly said that he was pressed by the University Council to lodge a charge in order to protect the university's reputation.

Norawase faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in jail for the charge of lese majeste and another 5 years under the Computer Crimes Act. His arrest came a month after a petition signed by hundreds of Thai writers calling for reform of the law, and the formal charging of "Redshirt" magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, in July 2011.

The role of the deputy rector in Norawase's case has prompted the launching of a signature campaign by academics and activists who are opposed to the move. A webpage that includes writings by academic Jiles Ungpakorn was also launched. The latter also faces a lese majeste charge lodged in 2009 by the director of the Chulalongkorn University bookshop, who first refused to sell his book that questioned the role of the monarchy in the 2006 military coup. On the webpage, Jiles condemned Kasetsart University's behaviour as censorship and criticized the repression of academic freedom in Thailand.

Lese majeste is a criminal offense in Thailand. Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code allows anyone to file a complaint with the police against anyone he or she deems to have defamed the monarch and members of the royal family. The equivalent of Article 112 and other Penal Code provisions can be found in sections of the Computer Crimes Act.
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