Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of independent news site "Prachatai", is calling for worldwide support as she faces jail time of up to 20 years. Premchaiporn is the latest victim of Thailand's antiquated lèse-majesté laws, which were set up to protect the monarchy from insult, and are being used in modern times to silence dissent.
Premchaiporn was arrested because she allegedly did not move quickly enough to delete the comments of an anonymous individual who posted on her website. Thailand's Computer-related Crimes Act holds webmasters criminally responsible for all comments on their sites. "Yes, I am on trial for words expressed by someone I do not know," Premchaiporn succinctly expressed in a letter.
Premchaiporn is asking individuals to sign a petition demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra repeal the anti-freedom of expression aspects of the Computer-related Crimes Act and drop the charges against her.
In Thailand's politically volatile last five years, the use of lèse-majesté has skyrocketed. First used as a tool to repress critics by the former government, it is now being employed by Shinawatra's Puea Thai Party. This despite her promises before coming to power in August that she would end the coercive, undemocratic use of lèse-majesté.
Others hit with lèse-majesté cases under Shinawatra's watch include Surapak Phuchaisaeng in connection with Facebook messages, and Joe Gordon, charged in August for translating part of a banned biography on the King, report the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Meanwhile, many of those charged with lèse-majesté under the previous government have been denied bail under the new one.
Premchaiporn notes that many other countries are interested in enacting similar laws to hold webmasters liable for comments. She worries the law in Thailand and elsewhere will bring an end to online forums, blogs and social networks because no one would dare host them.