One released on bail, one still detained; authorities know nothing

  

One webmaster and other user names dropped out of the Thai internet community at about the same time a rumour began to spread on Aug 24 that some web-board members had been arrested. The Financial Times newspaper reported in its Sept 1-2 weekend edition that two Thais had been arrested for posting offensive comments about the monarchy.

However, Information and Communications Technology Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom denied knowledge of the arrests to the Nation newspaper on Sept 2. And in the Nation again on Sept 6, the police commander of the Economic and Cyber Crime Division also denied any involvement in the arrests, but neither denied nor confirmed that the arrests did take place.

 

A few user names have been missing from political web-boards. including Praya Pichai. Reliable sources confirmed that Praya Pichai, the alias of a 36-year-old programmer, was detained in Bangkok Remand Prison. He was eventually bailed on the evening of Sept 6.

 

Praya Pichai was an active member in the Prachatai discussion forum and others, and in late June opened his own web-board at http://propaganda.forumotion.com/ which openly discussed the issue of the monarchy, a taboo topic in Thailand. The ICT ministry immediately blocked access to the entire website from inside the country. However, it is still accessible through applications using proxies. The number of registered members reaches almost 800.

 

Since the rumour, Praya Pichai seems to have disappeared from all web-boards. Strangely, some members in the Propaganda Forum are still trying to convince other members, who had begun to notice his absence, that Praya Pichai was still around and would come back on line soon. Some members said they had been contacted by him through the MSN chatroom. But he has not appeared on any web-board since.

 

Mystery hung over the underground web-board community with almost everyone accusing one another of being infiltrators, while a few members still kept on insisting that the webmaster was fine, and persuading others to keep posting.

 

Some members were suspicious that the web-board had already been usurped by a group of people who had yet to figure out Phraya Pichai's password to log on to post in his screen name, but might have seized his computer and used his MSN which is set to log in automatically.

 

Some groups and individuals have started to call public attention to this case.  Fah Deaw Kan (Same Sky) publishing house, an alternative book and magazine publisher, has issued a statement calling on the government to clarify the issue.  Some individuals have put up a blog specifically to launch a campaign "Free Pichai" ( http://freepichai.blogspot.com/). A campaign slide show consisting only of texts calling for justice for Pichai has been put on the Youtube website. And many members of Prachatai discussion forum have begun to post comments about the arrest.

 

Immediately after Prachatai reported that the man had been bailed on the evening of Sept 6, the Propaganda website suddenly changed its line into one condemning and cursing people who are not loyal to the monarchy, and all previous posts were deleted.

 

However, some Propaganda members have put up another forum http://propaganda2.forumotion.com/.

 

On Sept 7, Prachatai was informed about a second detainee, a woman who was arrested on the same day.

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