Recent crackdown on cyber dissidents

On 13 Dec 2011, police raided the homes of two Thai internet users, took them in for interrogation and seized their computers and several other items.  They were released at night on the same day.  Until now, they have not yet been officially charged.

There were five individuals on the police’s wanted list in the crackdown, but the police could locate only these two persons.

One of the two is a 45-year-old woman who runs a small store and gives English lessons in Nakhon Pathom.   

According to her, 14 policemen from the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TDSC) raided her house in the late afternoon when she was home alone.

She was taken to the TDSC headquarters on Chaengwatthana Rd in Bangkok, interrogated for over an hour, and then taken back to her home late that night. 

The police refused to give her copies of the search warrant and interrogation report, and only gave her a copy of the list of belongings which were seized for police examination, including mobile phones, a CD-ROM, an external hard disk, a laptop computer, a router/modem, etc., totalling 15 items.  She received all of them back only in late Feb.

As far as she could gather from quickly scanning the search warrant shown to her during the raid, it stated that she was a member of the webboard, followed ‘Hi S tales’ (see here and here at New Mandala), promoted the stories by posting on the threads so that they kept appearing on the first page, and used an emoticon called ‘Khun Saab Sueng’ (คุณซาบซึ้ง), or Mr or Miss Overwhelmingly Grateful, created by another member of the webboard, which the police identified as a satirical symbol recognized among red shirts as referring to the monarchy.

‘Khun Saab Sueng’ (คุณซาบซึ้ง), or Mr or Miss Overwhelmingly Grateful (see more)

When she received her seized belongings back from the police, she found that the name of one partition in her external hard disk, which she used to store documents and articles about politics, had been changed.

‘I didn’t stay to watch them while they were making a copy [of the hard disk], as I was confident that I had not done anything risky or hidden anything.  I just posted my personal comments as usual.  But when I saw this, I suspected whether the police had tampered with my data,’ she said.

She told Prachatai that she had closely followed politics through the internet, but had never joined any rallies by any groups.  She also insisted that she had largely read comments by others, and had never posted any offensive comments.

The other person who was raided was Thaiwat Sithandonsamut, over 30 years old, a graduate of Chulalongkorn University and an active blogger on politics and comic books. 

He has suffered from Asperger’s syndrome which causes him difficulties in talking to other people.  He has tried for many years to find a job, and now lives with his parents in Bangkok.  Aside from being a devoted fan of comic books, he has been active in archiving articles and documents on politics and IT on his several blogs and Twitter and Facebook accounts.

He gathered that the police raid might have resulted from a dispute with another member of the Dek-D website where he had a blog, who accused him of collecting information to overthrow the monarchy.  The website’s webmaster then banned almost all of his collection of materials under the categories of ‘Feudalism’ and ‘Democrat Party’, which, he said, he had archived from other sources including Somsak Jeamteerasakul, Thai E-news, Prachatai and other mainstream media.

According to Arthit Suriyawongkul, of the Thai Netizen Network, so far the authorities’ collection of evidence from suspects under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act has never consistently followed any standard.  The only time that they acted in accordance with a standard was when they arrested Prachatai Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn, whose case has always been cited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the international community as an example of how strictly the Thai authorities adhered to the rule of law in prosecuting suspects under the lèse majesté and computer crime laws.  

That seems to be the only case where there was a specific court order for the authorities to make copies of the computer data, in the presence of IT experts as witnesses, with one copy for police examination and the other to be sealed and kept as a reference, both signed by Chiranuch. She regained her computer immediately after the copying which took about 2-3 hours.  That was probably because news of the arrest had spread rapidly to the public, Arthit said.

‘I’m not worried and not afraid.  As I’m now still unemployed, even if I’m persecuted and locked behind bars, that would not create much impact on me.  At most, I would be jailed until Thai society agrees to accept, speak and take responsibility for the truth,’ Thaiwat said.

‘I’m thinking of making a call to ask the police to make a copy out of their copy of my hard disk, because the hard disk they gave back to me was ruined,’ he said.



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