On 25 Dec, the Criminal Court found Katha Pachariyaphong guilty on two counts under the 2007 Computer Crimes Act and sentenced him to 6 years in prison, but reduced the prison term to 4 years due to his guilty plea.
Katha, 39, was found guilty of posting two comments in April and October 2009 on sameskybooks.org webboard.
According to the court verdict, the defendant’s first comment posted on 22 April 2009 led the general public to understand that HM the King favoured the yellow shirts and Princess Sirindhorn also did the same, and the other post on 14 October 2010, which concerned rumours about the King’s health, led the general public to understand that HM was seriously ill. The comments were false, damaging national security and causing panic among the public, the court said.
During the trial, Aree Jiworarak, an official from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, testified that the defendant used an alias ‘wet dream’ on the webboard, and had an e-mail account email@example.com. The official checked this e-mail with banks and found that the defendant had used it to open bank accounts. The National Intelligence Agency acquired his IP address through its investigation, and Aree did a recheck by sending an e-mail to this e-mail account and acquired the same IP address when the defendant clicked on a link in the e-mail. After checking with CS Loxinfo, an internet service provider, Aree found that the IP address belonged to a company which the defendant worked for.
According to an IT expert who testified as a prosecution witness, the hard disk which the defendant used with his computer at work was found to have the word www.sameskybooks.org over 29,000 times and the user name ‘wet dream’ over 240 times.
Pol Lt Col Phiraphat Siriworachaikun testified that the defendant was informed of the charges and his rights during the arrest in the presence of several reporters, and the defendant confessed that he had used the e-mail account to register at the webboard and used the alias.
As several documents seized from the boot of the defendant’s car had content similar to what had been posted on the webboard, the court was convinced that the defendant held the same view and posted accordingly.
In response to the first post about HM the King favouring the yellow shirts, the court argued that it was not true, as ‘HM the King and all members of the royal family love the people equally and are above political conflict. HM the King and Princess Sirindhorn are politically neutral. The posting of such a comment will result in ever more serious political conflicts, likely to affect state security and public peace.’
As for the post about rumours about the King’s health, the court said that HM the King was the centre of the spirit of people of all groups, as evident in the recent 5 December event when a lot of people came out to wish HM well, so it could not be denied that public panic would not happen [as a result of the comment].
At about 6.30 pm, Katha was granted bail with a guarantee of 500,000 baht in cash.
Katha was arrested on 1 Nov 2009, and was released on bail. At about the same time, a few other people were also arrested for similar offences, which involved posting comments about rumours about the King’s health, which were believed to have caused the Thai stock market to plunge on 14 October 2009.
After the arrest, he was immediately fired by his employer, which is a large stock brokerage.