By Saksith Saiyasombut
Thai police detained the manager of a popular news website Friday as she returned from an Internet freedom conference in Europe on charges of insulting the monarchy and violating the Computer Crime Act.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, webmaster of Prachatai, said she was stopped at an immigration checkpoint at Bangkok’s international airport and shown an arrest warrant issued by police in the northeastern province of Khon Kaen. She had just attended a conference in Hungary dealing with online free expression.
“Webmaster of popular Thai news website arrested on return from Internet freedom conference“, by Thanyarat Doksone, Associated Press, September 24, 2010
As pointed out in the article, the fact Chiranuch was arrested after she attended the “Internet at Liberty 2010: The promise and peril of online free expression” in Budapest bears a bitter irony.
Prachatai itself has more details on the arrest.
The charges against Chiranuch were made by the Superintendent of Khon Kaen Police who alleged that she, as website administrator, and website users violated Sections 14 and 15 of the 2007 Computer Crimes Act and Section 112 of the Criminal Code (lèse majesté) for offensive comments made on the website on 27 April 2009.
She is now being transferred by car to Khon Kaen Police Station. Prachatai staff, friends and a lawyer are on the way to the province to bail her out. Chiranuch said that she had never received any previous summons from the police.
Two weeks ago, on her departure to Europe for the conference Chiranuch was interrogated by immigration police who claimed that her name was the double of someone in Khon Kaen. On her arrival today, she was detained for the same reason, before being informed about the arrest warrant issued by Khon Kaen Provincial Court.
“Update on Chiranuch’s arrest #1“, Prachatai, September 24, 2010
The AP story above further states that the complaint was filed by “a Khon Kaen man […] in early 2009 over some messages posted on Prachatai.“ Furthermore (and even worse), Police has said that there was no previous summon as it was “not necessary in this case because the offence carries a severe penalty,” clearly indicating it is a lèse majesté case. (Source)
Chiranuch has already been arrested in 2009 on a similar charge. The website Prachatai has been repeatedly targeted by the authorities in the past and been numerous times blocked, forcing the site to change URLs.