Update on the arrests under Cyber Crime Act

A well-known anti-coup activist confirmed that he met arrested webmaster Praya Pichai while detained at the same cell in prison. Fellow members of the cyber community and human rights and free speech advocates are raising fund to bail the second woman who is still detained.


A climate of fear and confusion among cyber posters in political discussion forums in Thailand including Prachatai has been looming for the past few weeks, after a rumor and later a news report in the Financial Times in early September.


Sombat Bun-ngam-anong, the anti-coup activist, was detained at Bangkok Remand Prison, after he refused bail in a libel suit filed against him by junta leaders Gen Sonthi Bunyaratkalin and Gen Saprang Galayanamitr. (see http://www.prachatai.com/english/news.php?id=186)


Prachatai visited him in prison on Sept 3, and he reported the presence of the detainee who the police believed was Praya Pichai. He said that the man was visibly frightened and had not been permitted to contact family members and lawyers.


"He dreaded being inside the prison, and was denied all basic rights. He knew so little about the Computer Crime Act. I'm worried about his safety. Please contact his family as soon as possible," Sombat told Prachatai from behind bars.


He also said that the detainee was arrested on Aug 24, and detained at the Crime Suppression Division for 6 days before being transferred to the prison. There was no physical abuse, according to what the detainee told Sombat.


The next day, Sombat provided Prachatai with the detainee's real name and the addresses of people who he wanted to be contacted. Prachatai made contact with his family members, and he was eventually bailed out on Sept 6.


Sombat later wrote about this in his own web-board, www.nocoup.org, after he was released on bail.


"He approached me from behind, asking if I was a member of the anti-coup movement because I was wearing a red T-shirt with an anti-coup message. He was wary about talking. It took 3-4 days for us to learn about each other. Strangely, we were moved to the same cell, lying side by side."


Sombat was told that three policemen raided the man's room through the windows, and then opened the door for a couple of dozen more to come in. While in detention at the Crime Suppression Division, the police showed photographs of him taken when he was at anti-coup activities. He had been followed by the police for quite some time. The police tried to link him with some anti-coup groups, and establish a conspiracy theory to undermine the monarchy, but he denied it.


However, the police took hold of all the information in his notebook computer including screen names, email addresses, and passwords regarding his web-board, propaganda.forumotion.com, as well as MSN accounts and chat history.


On the same day, a woman was also arrested. Both were held and questioned at the same place. Currently, the woman is still detained at Bangkok Remand Prison.


Sombat believes that the authorities think that this must be an organized crime, and have been monitoring a certain group of internet surfers to find the masterminds. They failed, as these were individual efforts, Sombat said.


Prachatai talked to the first detainee in person, and was told that he did not want his case to be publicized, as the police had instructed him not to talk to reporters. Sombat said that, according to the detainee, the police had convinced him to confess and not to give interviews, in exchange for a minimal punishment of 4 months imprisonment.


"I don't buy that. It must be a trick to lead to more arrests," Sombat said.


With the ICT minister and a high-level police officer denying knowledge of the arrests, the detainee himself not wanting publicity, and only one English-language newspaper following the issue, it seemed to be impossible to verify the other arrest reported by the Financial Times. Maybe it was just a rumour as many cast suspected.


On Sept 7, the founder of Prachatai website, Jon Ungpakorn, got a phone call from an individual who claimed his daughter was being detained in prison.


Prachatai visited the 37-year-old woman who the police believed to have used the screen name ‘Ton Chan', and owned a blog, "giyotin".


Her father told Jon that the arrest took place on the morning of Aug 24 by about 20 policemen raiding the house and arresting his daughter while she was sleeping in her bedroom. Her notebook computer was seized.


Prachatai website manager Chiranuch Premchaiporn visited her and found her in good mental condition, but poor health. Her family could not afford the bail of 100,000 baht.


Now many individuals in the web-boards have suggested fund-raising to bail the second detainee, and provide her with some financial assistance in the court case. And human rights and free speech advocates both local and international are also discussing how to help both persons.




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