22-year-old online vendor arrested for royal defamation

Phonphimon (last name withheld), a 22-year-old online vendor from Chiang Mai, faces a royal defamation charge and a charge under the Computer Crimes Act for a Facebook post made in October 2020 and is currently still in detention.

A part of a note Phonphimon wrote during her first night of detention at the Changpuak Police Station saying "Please give me back my life." 

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reports that Phonphimon was arrested on 31 March by a team of 5 – 6 uniformed and plainclothes police officers who presented an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court for a royal defamation charge under Section 112 and for importing into a computer system data relating to an offence against national security under the Computer Crimes Act.

The officers also presented a search warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court in order to search her room and confiscated her mobile phone and iPad.

She was then taken to Changpuak Police Station, where she was held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request.

On 1 April, the inquiry officer informed Pornpimon of the charges, saying that the charges were filed by Thikhathat Phrommani, who claimed he saw a Facebook post which was an insult to the King. Phonphimon denied all charges and said she is not involved with the Facebook profile in question. She also consented to have officers access the confiscated electronic equipment to prove that the Facebook profile is not hers. 

Later that day, the Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled to detain Phonphimon for 12 days, on the grounds that the penalty for the charges is high and that the accused is likely to flee or tamper with evidence.

The Court also denied her bail and she was taken to the Chiangmai Woman Correctional Institution. According to TLHR, she is the 13th person currently in detention on a charge under Section 112.

Phonphimon told her lawyer, who went to visit her on 4 April, that she is being held alone with a prison guard in a cell with no window, and that there was no light other than in front of the cell. She said she doesn’t know whether it is day or night, and that another inmate in a nearby cell kept screaming, keeping her awake.

“This law is not fair. It’s like people who are accused are being bullied, like their lives were taken away, like they’re dead. I don’t know how many other people outside are facing the same thing that is happening to me. I don’t want this law to exist. This shouldn’t happen to me. This shouldn’t happen to anyone,” she told her lawyer.

On 5 April, after Prachatai reported about Phonphimon’s arrest on our Thai-language site, a Facebook user using a fake name and claiming to be the person who filed charges against Phonphimon, sent a message to Prachatai’s Facebook page claiming that he received several insulting messages after Prachatai, Khaosod, and TLHR reported Phonphimon’s arrest. He also claimed he has filed a police report and that he would file charges against Prachatai for publishing his name if he faces any damages as a result.

According to TLHR, at least 82 people are facing charges under Section 112 since November 2020. Several protest leaders are also facing multiple counts, such as Parit Chiwarak, who is facing 20 counts, Anon Nampa, who is facing 12 counts, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who is facing 9 counts.

Advertisements

Since 2007, Prachatai English has been covering underreported issues in Thailand, especially about democratization and human rights, despite the risk and pressure from the law and the authorities. However, with only 2 full-time reporters and increasing annual operating costs, keeping our work going is a challenge. Your support will ensure we stay a professional media source and be able to expand our team to meet the challenges and deliver timely and in-depth reporting.

• Simple steps to support Prachatai English

1. Bank transfer to account “โครงการหนังสือพิมพ์อินเทอร์เน็ต ประชาไท” or “Prachatai Online Newspaper” 091-0-21689-4, Krungthai Bank

2. Or, Transfer money via Paypal, to e-mail address: service@prachatai.com, please leave a comment on the transaction as “For Prachatai English”