Webmaster Convicted For Not Being Fast Enough In Deleting Comments That Insulted Thai King

from the but-given-a-suspended-sentence dept

For a few years now we’ve covered how the Thai government’s ridiculous “lese majeste” laws that forbid insulting the monarchy have been used repeatedly to censor open forums and arrest or intimidate critics. In one case, which we wrote about a few years ago, the webmaster for the popular Thai site Prachatai was arrested for failing to delete comments of users on the site (not written or approved by her) that were deemed offensive to the monarchy fast enough. The post and the comments happened in 2008… but the woman, Chiranuch Premchaiporn (and better known as Jiew), wasn’t arrested until 2010, right after she returned from a trip abroad where she was speaking about the importance of internet freedom.

With an awful lot of public attention on the trial — and just as the World Economic Forum was about to meet in Bangkok — the court found her guilty — but also gave her a suspended sentence and a small fine. While that beats the 20 years in prison she could have faced, plenty of people are still pointing to the massive chilling effects such a conviction has on a free and open internet. Certainly, webmasters will have tremendous incentive to limit interaction and comments from the public.

At a time when countries who want to thrive and flourish should be encouraging greater and more widespread use of the internet, convicting a webmaster because the government doesn’t like some comments that others left on a website is exactly the wrong approach. It goes against basic principles of free speech and properly applying liability. Yes, lots of countries (including the US at times) have been chipping away at such basic and fundamental ideas online, but it’s still disappointing to see countries effectively guaranteeing a lack of openness and innovation within their own borders thanks to moves like this one.

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Comments on “Webmaster Convicted For Not Being Fast Enough In Deleting Comments That Insulted Thai King”

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32 Comments
Mark Gisleson (profile) says:

The rules in Thailand are very well understood

This wasn’t a capricious action taken by the Royal Commission on Recording Industry Association Profits, or the Royal Motion Picture Association of Thailand. This woman was arrested for violating a well known Thai law. You think it’s silly to have laws protecting the dignity of the royal family? I won’t argue with you, and if I was in Thailand, I definitely wouldn’t argue with you.

But that doesn’t make you right when you call the Thai people stupid for sticking with a monarchy. Thailand is the only Asian nation to have gone several centuries without being occupied by a foreign power. Thailand serves some of the best food in the world, and is the breadbasket of Asia. Thailand is not a stinking cesspool of filth and genocide like Cambodia, and is considerably more free than Burma, Cambodia or Laos, its closest neighbors.

Yes, maybe it sounds silly to have laws protecting a monarch, but when’s the last time you heard of a Thai college student being fined $675,000 for illegal downloading? Also, no one ever goes to prison for getting or providing an abortion in Thailand.

Thailand’s not a perfect country, but at this point in time it would behoove most Americans to STFU about other countries and their practices, most of which pale into insignificance when compared to our Wall Street driven mores.

a says:

Re: The rules in Thailand are very well understood

Ill add that its the government that uphold and keeps this law alive, the monarchy have little interest in this. Yes if you wish to delve into the unknown the monarchy may impose their will behind the scenes or on the other hand they may not. Point being unless you live in Thailand and are close to the action you know not, and should not assume either way.

Also the king and queen are generally well liked among Thai people so they must be doing something right!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: The rules in Thailand are very well understood

Simple, you ask them and they tell you in private.
Its not like the gestapo will inform on you…
You wouldn’t say or write it in public if you disagree with the monarchy, but among trusted people you are free to say what you like.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: The rules in Thailand are very well understood

This woman was arrested for violating a well known Thai law.

An unjust law is no law at all.

As to everything else you said, it is irrelevant. Just because other countries are worse, or have other faults, does not excuse having a law with penalties of up to 20 years in prison, and convicting someone of it, for not censoring someone else who is making fun of the king.

anon says:

The King and Queen

I could say that the king and queen of Thailand were homophobic inbred pedophiles and nobody can stop me , but is it right to say that if i know nothing about them, no, just like it is wrong to say anything about the queen of England but people still do it, even if they do not know what they are talking about, some people just love to hate, or love the attention they get for hating well known figures. We all have the right to free speech but when we use that speech to spout lies about others in an open forum where it could be misinterpreted as the truth then we have abused our right to free speech and should be punished for it, no , not by 20 ears jail time, but at least giving a public apology and maybe some form of punishment that will discourage us if we think of lying about well known people,or even those that are not that well known.

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: The King and Queen

technically, in the UK, the title is not ‘Queen of England’ but:
“Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”

the title is ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ not ‘England’. the status of england and Scotland as Countries or whatever is a bit weird, but they’re not separate Kingdoms anymore, as i understand it. (wales was annexed by england before the act of union. it’s a principality rather than a kingdom and not independent, to my understanding.)

that said, the Queen’s titles in NZ run thusly: “Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of New Zealand and Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”

though according to Wikipedia, ‘and Her other Realms and Territories’ can be replaced with a full list of them, excluding the one already named at the beginning, in order they became dominions (starting with the UK) for those that did, then of those that did not, the order i which they became independent countries rather than colonies…

and that’s only counting her titles as ‘head of state’… then there’s all the fun lower ranking ones… various orders and military units … (i vaguely recall something about having the rank of admiral in a landlocked US state…)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_titles_and_honours_of_Queen_Elizabeth_II

Rekrul says:

Re: The King and Queen

We all have the right to free speech but when we use that speech to spout lies about others in an open forum where it could be misinterpreted as the truth then we have abused our right to free speech and should be punished for it, no , not by 20 ears jail time, but at least giving a public apology and maybe some form of punishment that will discourage us if we think of lying about well known people,or even those that are not that well known.

There’s a difference between telling lies and having an opinion. Except in Thailand…

Chargone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

not as unlikely as you might think.

after all, the vast majority of commonwealth nations will have a King when the current Queen dies. (some of them are republics. not many though. and i Think there’s one or two that have their own monarchies that attached themselves to the commonwealth/empire as a better alternative to being snapped up by the US or various other empires.) this includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa unless i missed something, the UK, and a number of small island nations who’s names escape me at the moment.

there’s a few non-commonwealth (i think) pacific island nations that still have active monarchies too.

and that’s jut the places i remember off the top of my head.

i assume your XXI meant 21st century?

(it still amuses me that, with the commonwealth, while everyone knew and accepted who would be the next head of it (obviously the next monarch of the vast majority of it’s member states) there was some confusion as to Why. succession had never come up before and no one had got around to Bringing it up to make a rule for how it was decided, so there was some confusion as to whether it would be by vote amongst the member states (the ruler of the vast majority of them would win by default) or if the position was hereditary. not actually sure how (if?) that was resolved, to be honest.)

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

free speech is an American ideal, maybe we should stop trying to force our ideals on others, and fix our own house first

This comment, by an anonymous commenter on an American website, has been made available to you courtesy of the Constitution of the United States of America.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled comments.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We shouldn’t push our laws or our ideals on them.

While I agree that the US shouldn’t push their laws onto other countries, the ideals of free speech is pretty prevalent worldwide.

From The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948:

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

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