Graduate faces lese majeste and Computer Crimes Act

A recent graduate from Kasetsart University was arrested under the lese majeste over his writings on his blog. He was released after spending three nights in prison when his family members posted a land title for his 500 000 Baht bail (about USD16 700) on 8 August, according to online news site Prachatai.com.

The arrest of Norawase Yospiyasathien, 22, came after the University deputy rector, Nipon Limlamtong filed a charge under the lese majeste and the Computer Crimes Act last year. Norawase’s blog messages, posted while he was still in his fourth year in accounting, were first spotted by the university students. The deputy rector reportedly said that he was pressed by the University Council to lodge a charge in order to protect the university’s reputation.

Norawase faces a maximum of 15 years in jail under the lese majeste and another 5 year under the Computer Crimes Act. His arrest came a month after a petition signed by hundreds of Thai writers urging for reform of the law, and the formal charging of redshirt magazine editor Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, in July.

The role of the deputy rector in Norawase’s case has prompted the launching of a signature campaign by academics and activists in opposition. A webpage also appeared in the internet with writing apparently from academic Jiles Ungpakorn, who also faces a lese majeste charge lodged in 2009 by the director of Chulalongkorn University bookshop, which has first refused to sell his book questioning the role of the monarchy in the 2006 military coup. In the webpage, Jiles condemned Kasetsart University’s behaviour as indulging in censorship and criticized the repression of academic freedom in Thailand.

Lèse majesté is a criminal offense in Thailand. Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code allows anyone to file a complaint with the police against anyone he or she deems to have defamed the monarch and members of the royal family. The equivalent of Article 112 and other Penal Code provisions can be  found in sections of the Computer Crimes Act.


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