Government urged to respect netizens’ rights

Internet activists in Thailand criticized the government for infringing on the rights of online users and called for amending the controversial Computer Crime Act.

The Thai Netizens Network (TNN) said at a press conference on 9 December that aside from the Computer Crime Act, the administration of Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been using the emergency decree to justify its censorship of more than 10,000 websites since the decree was imposed after the political unrest in May this year. Bangkok and several nearby provinces remain under the emergency decree.

Arthit Suriyawongkul, a TNN official, said at the press conference that “the blocked websites are mostly where critical and anti-government political opinions are expressed.”

The TNN said that the government is using the Computer Crime Act to “prosecute those with different political views”. Arthit added that Article 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law, is being used to prosecute government critics and even online intermediaries like Internet service providers, web board moderators and others. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, executive director and moderator of independent news website Prachatai.com is an example; she is facing more than 50 years’ imprisonment if convicted of charges that she violated the Computer Crime Act due to her alleged failure to take down comments from the web board that the government claimed were insulting to the monarchy.

The netizens group listed several recommendations, calling on the government to “uphold the rights and liberty of Internet users and online media”, treat fairly cyberspace intermediaries like Internet service providers and web boards, and protect the privacy of Internet users.

The TNN also recommended the formation of a multi-party committee representing a diverse group of stakeholders and amend the Computer Crime Act, which was enacted in 2007, a year after the military launched a coup.

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About SEAPA

SEAPA is the only regional organization with the specific mandate of promoting and protecting press freedom in Southeast Asia. It is composed of the Jakarta-based Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) and the Institute for Studies on the Free Flow of Information (ISAI); the Manila-based Center for Media Freedom andResponsibility (CMFR) and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ); the Bangkok-based Thai Journalists Association (TJA); and the network’s Kuala Lumpur-based associate member, the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ).