Twitter user arrested for posting about monarchy; twice denied bail

A Twitter user who was arrested last week under computer crime charges for posting about the monarchy has been denied bail twice on the ground that he might flee, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported.

Twitter user "Niranam", username @ssj_2475 (name withheld), was arrested on 19 February on computer crime charges for posting pictures and messages about King Vajiralongkorn. The 20-year-old has been detained by the Pattaya Provincial Court after he was charged with “entering into a computer system, computer data which is an offence related to national security of the Kingdom of Thailand or related to terrorism under the Criminal Code” under Section 14 Clause 3 of the 2017 Computer Crimes Act.  

Niranam’s family said that he was taken by 10 plainclothes and uniformed police officers at around 10:30 am on 19 February. The officers confiscated 2 mobile phones and took Niranam and his parents to Pattaya Police Station, but they did not have an arrest warrant.

His parents said that they were separated from their son and were interrogated for around 6 hours. They did not know when Niranam was charged, but found out later that he admitted to the officer that the Twitter account was his and unlocked his phone for the officer. During this process, the 20-year-old did not have a lawyer, and the officer did not provide a record of his arrest or his charges.

Niranam’s family posted bail of 100,000 baht, which was denied by the Pattaya Provincial Court on the ground that he was charged with a major crime, and that he might try to flee if he was released, as claimed by the inquiry official.

A Twitter campaign was started after it emerged that Niranam has been denied bail, which raised around 15 million baht over the weekend, 500,000 of which went towards posting bail a second time, while the rest will go into a trust for people facing similar prosecutions. 

Meanwhile, the hashtags #Saveนิรนาม and #Freeนิรนาม trended on Twitter throughout the weekend as Thai netizens expressed their support for the 20-year-old, a well-known figure among young Thai Twitter users, and promote the campaign to raise money for his bail. 

Earlier today (24 February), Niranam’s family and attorneys from TLHR applied for bail a second time, and were once again denied. However, the family and their lawyer filed a complaint with the Court of Appeal Region 2, and Niranam was granted bail, as the Court of Appeal said that charges under the Computer Crimes Act only carry a prison sentence of less than 5 years or a fine of less than 100,000 baht, therefore it was not a major crime, and that he is not likely to flee – a direct opposite of the verdict of the Pattaya District Court.

The family posted bail of 200,000 baht, and Niranam was released at 19.20.

At the mass protest which took place at Chulalongkorn University this evening, the organizers announced that Niranam has finally been granted bail, saying that “our friend has been released,” and the crowd, made up of mostly university students, cheered.