Facebook blocks criticism of monarchy at junta’s request

Facebook has complied with a request from the junta to restrict user access to a video posted by an exiled critic of the monarchy, citing Thailand’s newly amended Computer Crimes Act. 
 
On 4 May 2017, the exiled academic Somsak Jeamteerasakul announced on his Facebook page that he had received an email from Facebook informing him that one of his posts violates Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act (CCA). Facebook has subsequently decided to restrict access to the post in Thailand. 
 
“We’re contacting you because the Ministry of Digital Economy & Society [MDE] has sent us a Court Order issued by the Judge Tassanee Leelaporn and Judge Somyod Korpaisarn of the Criminal Court of Thailand stating that the following post you made on Facebook violates Section 14(3) of the Computer Crimes Act B.E. 2550 (2010),” read the email.
 
The email also attached the link to Somsak’s controversial post made on 12 April. The link, however, now leads to the message, “Content unavailable in Thailand.” According to Somsak, the blocked post is a video clip of a man believed to be King Vajiralongkorn walking in a shopping mall in Germany. Before its removal, the video had generated over 400,000 views. 
 
 
Section 14(3) of the CCA states that the importation into computer systems of content threatening national security is illegal, with punishments of up to five years in prison and fines of up to 100,000 baht.
 
Somsak was a former lecturer at Thammasat University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts. He is accused of violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code — the lèse majesté law — for his repeated criticisms of the Thai monarchy. He fled the country shortly after the 2014 coup and currently lives in exile in Paris.   
 
Nowadays, Somsak continues his role as a critic of the Thai monarchy online. However, the Thai authorities have made repeated efforts to eliminate his influence. In October 2016, reports emerged of at least six individuals being summoned or visited by police officers for following Somsak’s Facebook account.  
 
On 12 April 2017, the MDE published an announcement banning Thai citizens from online communications with three critics of the monarchy: Somsak, Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Andrew MacGregor Marshall.  
 
On 2 May, six people were arrested for lèse majesté and detained at the Bangkok Prison Remand. At least two were accused of sharing a post from Somsak about the missing brass plaque commemorating the 1932 Democratic Revolution. 
 
One suspect, Prawet Praphanukul, a human rights lawyer, faces 10 counts of lèse majesté. He is also accused of violating Article 116 of the Criminal Code — the sedition law — and Article 14 of the Computer Crimes Act. He could be sentenced to up to 157 years in prison if found guilty.  
 
 
 
Somsak Jeamteerasakul (Photo from Voice TV)