Facebook user arrested for lèse majesté over copycat Facebook profile

The Thai police have arrested a man accused of creating a copycat Facebook profile under his friend’s name and posting lèse majesté messages on it to take revenge on his friend.   

According to Daily News, at 8 am on Wednesday, 23 December 2015, Pol Col Thawatchai Phongwiwatchai detained Wichai T., a 33-year-old from the northern province of Chiang Mai suspected of offences under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, after the Military Court issued an arrest warrant against him on 15 December 2015.

Wichai was arrested after the police received a complaint from an unidentified Facebook user that an individual had created a copycat Facebook profile under his name and posted messages defamatory to the Thai monarchy on it.  

After investigating the case, the police found that Wichai, who was a best friend turned foe of the Facebook user who submitted the complaint, was behind the fake Facebook profile.

The police confiscated three mobile phones of the suspect as evidence. Wichai will be transferred to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) for further investigation.

The case resembles several earlier examples of false Facebook identities.

In August 2015, the Thai Military Court caused an outcry from human rights groups for sentencing Sasiwimon (surname withheld due to privacy concerns), a 29-year-old hotel worker in the province, to 56 years in jail for allegedly posting seven lèse majesté messages under the Facebook identity ‘Rungnapha Kampichai’.

The military court sentenced Sasiwimon to 8-year jail terms on each of the seven lèse majesté counts. But since the defendant pleaded guilty as charged, the court halved the jail term to 28 years.

Prior to the ruling, Sasiwimon denied all allegations. However, during the prosecution examination hearing on 7 August 2015, she retracted her pretrial statements and pleaded guilty.

Sasiwimol was summoned by the police in February 2015 several months after a Facebook group in Chiang Mai known simply as ‘Facebook Chiang Mai’ filed a lèse majesté complaint against a Facebook user under the name ‘Rungnapha Kampichai’ at a local police station.

Shortly after, an individual whose real identity is Rungnapha Kampichai contacted the group, saying that the Facebook account under her name does not belong to her.

In mid November 2014, the authorities arrested Jaruwan E., 26, Anon, 22, and Chat, 20, lèse majesté suspects accused of being involved in the Facebook page “Jaruwan E. (full surname)” which posted explicit lèse majesté content and photos of Jaruwan.

Jaruwan denied all allegations, saying that she did not have control over the page and she believed that the page was a ploy by a disappointed admirer to cause her trouble, suspecting that “Chat”, a friend of "Anon" her boyfriend, was behind the Facebook page. The military then arrested the two men, one of whom cannot read or write.

In February 2015, the three were released after being detained for three months as the military prosecutors decided not to indict them.

Thai Netizen Network (TNN), a CSO promoting internet freedom, in 2011 recorded several cases of copycat Facebook pages/profiles which posted explicit lèse majesté material as a ploy to cause trouble to ultra-royalists using the laws they themselves support.

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