Updates on lèse majesté and computer crime cases

The Criminal Court is likely to deliver its ruling by the end of this year on a case in which a stockbroker has been prosecuted for posting comments on Same Sky or Fah Diew Kan webboard in 2009.

Khatha Pachariyaphong has been charged on two counts for posting two comments on the webboard in April and Aug 2009; the second post dealing with rumours circulating on the Thai stock market about the King’s health, which were believed to have caused a stock market plunge on 14 Aug 2009.

His alleged offences fall under Section 14 Paragraph 2 of the 2007 Computer-Related Crimes Act, which criminalizes input into a computer system of false information which is likely to affect national security or cause public panic.  Each offence carries a penalty of a maximum of 5 years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of 100,000 baht, or both.

Khatha was released on bail after the arrest in 2009, and was immediately fired by his employer.

Thanaphol Eawsakul, editor of Same Sky publishing house which ran the webboard at that time, has insisted that he has never given the IP address of any user of the webboard to the authorities.

An official from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology testified to the court that the Ministry had received information on the identity of the defendant from a national security agency.  

The agency had sent a ‘decoy’ email to the defendant, and obtained his IP address when he clicked on a link in the email, the official said.

It is not clear as to how the agency acquired the defendant’s email address.   

The MICT official did not specify which agency was responsible, and no witness from this agency was produced in court.  Only two employees from two banks were summoned to confirm that the email address had been used by the defendant for transactions with the banks, and the banks provided the authorities with information about the identity of the owner of the email account.

On 2 July, Katha petitioned the Constitutional Court to rule whether Section 14 Paragraph 2 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act was in violation of the Constitution, arguing that the provision was too ambiguous, allowing broad and arbitrary interpretations by the authorities, resulting in injustice to the defendant.

On 12 Sept, the Constitutional Court dismissed the petition, saying that the provision was in accordance with the rule of law and due process.

The court will officially read the Constitutional Court’s decision on the petition on 19 Dec, and is also expected to give its verdict on the case on the same day.

In a related case, in 2009 another stockbroker Theeranan Wiphuchanin was also arrested and accused of posting on the Prachatai webboard her translation of a Bloomberg news article which reported the slump of the Thai stock market on 14 Aug 2009 due to the widespread rumours about the King’s health.  Her case is now pending a decision by the prosecution.

The court has also set 19 Dec to read the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Somyot Prueksakasemsuk’s petition as to whether or not Section 112 of the Criminal Code was against the Constitution.  The Constitutional Court already gave its ruling on 10 Oct.  

The court is also likely to hand down its verdict on Somyot’s lèse majesté case on that same day.

Aswin (family name withheld) will appear in Chiang Mai Court in Feb 2013 to face accusations by an acquaintance of making lèse majesté remarks.

Ekachai Hongkangwan, arrested for selling copies of an ABC documentary and WikiLeaks documents and released on bail in March 2011, will be in court for his next hearing on 22 Feb 2013, with Sulak Sivarak and Jitra Kotchadet as defence witnesses.

Yotwarit Chuklom, or Jeng Dokjik, a comedian turned red-shirt activist and politician, will appear in court for witness hearings on 11-12 Dec.  He is being prosecuted for alleged lèse majesté comments in his public speech during a red-shirt rally at Phan Fa on 29 March 2010.   

Sqn Ldr Chanin Klaiklueng will appear in a military court in Feb 2013. The trial is not open to the public.  He has been charged under Section 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer-Related Crimes Act for posting 24 comments on his Facebook page.  He has been suspended from military service for approximately two years.

Surachai Danwatthananusorn and Thanthawut Thaweewarodomkul have submitted petitions for royal pardons.  Surachai has received a combined sentence of 25 years in prison in 5 cases, reduced by half due to his guilty pleas.  Thanthawut has been convicted to 13 years in prison.

Source: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2012/11/43892