New government with old problems for the media

[Thailand country report to SEAPA’s 2012 Press Freedom Report, Online media is the space to watch]

Freedom of expression and opinion in Thailand has been on a precipitous decline since 2005 when the country slipped into one of its most protracted political crises following the launch of prolonged and massive protests by the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) to topple then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, leading to his ouster by the armed forces on 19 September 2006 and self-imposed exile abroad.

The 2010 bloody crackdown on the ‘Red Shirt’ United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD) three-month-long street protest in Bangkok against the government of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva deepened the conflict and brought to the fore explosive issues of injustice and impunity for state violence against UDD cadres and supporters. At least 91 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured in clashes between security forces and the UDD, culminating in the 19 May military operation which ended the protests.

The government set up the independent Truth and National Reconciliation Commissionin August 2010 to investigate conflict-related deaths but the army did not cooperate fully in providing information regarding its operations during that period, as was pointed out in the initial TCRC report.

Media safety remained an issue of concern, especially during the lead-up to the national elections on 3 July 2011. The pre-election period saw a surge in media and online censorship and a worsening of the human rights situation.

On 20 June 2011, the Thai Journalists Association (TJA) and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association (TBJA), in a joint statement with several business groups, called for a halt to violence stemming from the political crisis and urged all political parties to accept the outcome of the elections.

Although the 3 July 2011 general election was an opportunity for the conflicting sides to seek political legitimacy, rights and media groups remained wary of the post-poll scenario. The Washington-based Human Rights Watch said the post-election period would not end the conflict as neither side had shown genuine willingness to address the causes of the political polarization. Online proliferation of hate speech and instigation of violence by all parties to the conflict, threaten to worsen the divide.

Finally, an independent broadcast regulator

A positive development in the media sector under the Abhisit administration was the establishment of the country’s first independent broadcast and telecom regulatory body – the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC). It took 14 years to set up a body to regulate and distribute public broadcast spectrum, monopolized for decades by state institutions and close business cliques.

The election of the 11 NBTC commissioners in September 2011ended 14 years of political and legal wrangling over setting up Thailand’s first independent broadcast regulatory regime as envisaged in the  1997 Constitution.

The NBTC, which has a six-year term, faces an uphill battle in issuing new broadcast and telecom licenses and reviewing contracts held by powerful businesses with close links to the government and the army. Alarm bells have already been sounded over the army’s over-representation in the body, seen as affecting its proclaimed independence.

Under the Frequency Allocation Act 2010, the NBTC replaces its 2005 predecessor, the National Telecom Commission (NTC), with an added mandate to supervise the allocation and operation of broadcast spectrum (community radio, terrestrial and satellite television). According to a report in The Nation on 6 September 2011, Article 43 of the Act, authorizing the NBTC to subcontract airtime to private businesses, is expected to be contentious. At present, several private companies operate full-time on army-owned radio frequencies.

The end of the year found the NBTC at loggerheads with entertainment giant GMM Grammy and its subsidiary A Time Media over a license to operate the ‘Green Wave’ radio channel on Station 1, which belongs to the state-owned Thailand Post The NBTC ruled that Green Wave’s licence had expired and its operator had to bid for frequency allocation once master plans for spectrum management, broadcasting and telecommunications were in place.  The master plan would also enable the long-awaited auction of licences for third-generation wireless broadband on the 2.1-gigahertz spectrum sought by the three main cellular phone operators AIS, DTAC and Truemove.

Continuing censorship

Throughout 2011, the 2007 Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA) and Article 112 of the Penal Code on lese majeste (crime of defaming, insulting or threatening the King, Queen and the heir-apparent) were used to enforce online censorship and persecute Red-Shirt supporters and critics of the monarchy. Arrests, prosecutions and convictions under Article 112 reached a new high.

Although the Abhisit administration (late 2008-mid 2011) was marked by large-scale politicalconflict-related violence as well as restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to assembly, it was under the Yingluck Shinawatra government, elected in July 2011 that harsher online censorship measures were introduced and the harshest ever lese majeste sentence – a 20-year imprisonment – was given to a 61-year old man for sending anti-monarchy SMS messages.

The Yingluck government also reinstated licensing and used pre-publication censorship to control dissemination of information about the country’s worst floods in the later half of 2011. The government censored citizen-journalist website Thaiflood which was providing crucial news and information about the disaster which inundated one-third of Thailand’s provinces, killed at least 350 people and displaced millions. An estimated 500 media workers were affected by the floods.

 

Political interference as usual in state-controlled media

In its 23 August policy announcement, the Yingluck Administration pledged to guarantee media and public access to a wide range of government information.

However, less than two months after taking office, it began interfering with state-run media. The current affairs program” Klai Pom” (untying the knot) hosted by media personality Jermsak Pinthong, a critic of Yingluck’s elder brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, as well as news agency T News talk show “Jor Kao Ron Luang Kao Luek” (in-depth news), were removed from the government-controlled Channel 11.

The resignation of Suraphol Nitikraipob, president of the executive board of the state-controlled media conglomerate MCOT, which owns Channels 3 and 9, was linked to government interference in the board. Suraphol, seen as belonging to the anti-Yingluck camp, quit after the Prime Minister’s Office cancelled the reshuffle in the MCOT board which saw the removal of MCOT General Manager Thanawat Wanson, a known Yingluck government supporter

Several Red Shirt media outlets sympathetic to the ruling party were allowed to resume work as part of the national reconciliation process. The Red media outlets, including a number of Red Shirt community radio stations in the North and Northeast were shut down by the Abhisit government.

Political divide haunts media houses

During the July 3 election campaign, TV Thai’s hard-hitting news commentator and program host, Pinyo Trisuriyathamma faced editorial pressure to censor his broadcast feed featuring his exclusive interview with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which was said to show Thaksin in a favourable light. The interview was eventually aired but with added-on interviews with Thaksin critics and opponents, to the dismay of Pinyo who resigned but was reinstated after fence-mending dialogues with TV Thai executives.

Critics noted that the issue revealed deep tensions in newsrooms over political coverage. At times, this compromised editorial independence. TV Thai, formerly known as Thai Public Broadcasting Service, is considered a public broadcaster but has also been criticized of favoring the anti-Thaksin Yellow-Shirt movement.

On the other hand, media workers were targeted by the Red Shirts. In August 2011, Channel 7 broadcast reporter Somchit Nawakruesuwan received hate mail, allegedly from Red Shirt supporters, asking the public to “teach her a lesson”. Somchit was accused of being too hard in her questioning of new Prime Minister Yingluck. Red Shirt supporters also protested outside the Channel 7 office, demanding Somchit’s sacking. This prompted reporters covering parliament to submit an open letter to Yingluck, demanding an end to the harassment and to file a police complaint.

Converging business and political interests in media

The post-conflict period saw a realignment of corporate media and political power with the 3 July election shifting power towards pro-Thaksin business and media interests. Media workers find themselves more vulnerable to threats from several fronts – state censorship, political conflict, capital and online social media pressure. Yet, the most insidious threat is from the media house bosses.

In the most shocking case, the Matichon Groupterminated the contract of investigative news veteran and strong Thaksin critic, Prasong Lertratanawisute when he refused to withhold his latest piece which questioned Yingluck’s court testimony in defense of her brother Thaksin in the case related to the latter’s alleged assets concealment. Prasong eventually had to post the article on his own blog www.prasong.com. Prasong’s departure on 23 July from the newspaper he had worked in for 26 years showed the depth of political divisions in Thai media.

Readers and observers have noted a shift in Matichon’s stance towards Thaksin supporters and the Red Shirts over the last four years. Censorship of Prasong was seen as the company’s attempt to survive in the changed political climate now dominated by Thaksin allies.

Critics were quick to conclude that Prasong was just too difficult to handle with his persistent and probing pursuit of corruption which doomed many political careers. His expose of Thaksin’s asset concealment while deputy foreign minister in the 1990s landed the telecom tycoon-turned-politician in a legal tussle right after his party’s landslide victory in 2001which led to the Constitutional Court’s highly controversial August 2001 ruling finding Thaksin not guilty.

The neutrality of Matichon was also questioned by the revelation of email communication implicating several local newspapers and television stations as beneficiaries of the Thaksin-backed Phuea Thai Party’s reward scheme before the 3 July 2011 elections. Matichon protested the findings of the subsequent investigation by The Press Council of Thailand (TPCT) and eventually pulled out from the press council over what the newspaper called a “biased investigation”.

While the TPCT probe did not find evidence that any journalist implicated in the e-mails had been rewarded by Pheua Thai, it did verify that the emails were sent from the email account of Pheua Thai officer Wim Rungwattana to party financier Pongsak Raktapongpaisan.

However, the Press Council investigation was criticized for having gone too far in suggesting that Matichon’s coverage of the 3 July election campaign favoured Phuea Thai’s Yingluck over her Democrat Party rival Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Matichon pull-out from the Press Council represented a serious crack in Thai media unity, a far cry from the days when the entire media community had made an impassioned protest against the take-over of Matichon by Thaksin business ally, GMM Grammy The take-over was believed to be an attempt to hem in Thaksin critics, an accusation denied by GMM boss Paiboon Damrongchaitham.

Moreover, Matichon’s pull-out from the Press Council was a big blow to the self-regulatory approach that media believes is strategically the best way to defend its freedom in a democracy and to uphold ethical and professional standards.

After all, it was the Press Council, comprising mainly owners, executives, editors and representatives of media professional groups, that was at the centre of criticism for doing too little and, sometimes, too late to address media ownership structural problems.

The problem speaks volumes of a long-neglected and accumulative structural problem besetting Thai media since the 1990s – emerging ownership patterns with business, political and government interests converging to inevitably undermine media independence and professional ethics.

Other media outlets such as the Nation Multimedia Group, which publishes The Nation, the Post Publishing , publisher of the Bangkok Post, and Manager Media, had all faced backlashfrom Thaksin’s use of commercial and political pressures and lawsuits when he was prime minister.

As events leading to and following the 19 September 2006 army ouster of Thaksin polarized Thai politics and society, it became difficult for the already demoralized Thai media industry to maintain its neutrality.

Reining in print media

 

On 18 October 2011, while the media was preoccupied with coverage of the devastating floods in the country, the Yingluck Cabinet quietly approved the amendment to the 2007 Printing Registration and Notification Act proposed by the Ministry of Culture.

The amendment sought to reinstate the National Police Chief’s power to control publication licensing, including pre-censorship of content seen as threatening national security, including lese majeste, as well as disturbing social order and good morals.

The 2007 Act, strongly championed by the media to replace the draconian 1941 Press and Printing Act of 1941, allows a Thai national to register a newspaper or publication with the Department of Fine Arts after complying with specified requirements. Police can no longer close down newspapers but can ban the import of foreign publications.

Upon learning the Cabinet’s decision, the Press Council of Thailand and the Thai Journalists Association jointly petitioned the Minister of Culture Sukumol Khunpleum to stop the amendment from going ahead, describing it as “draconian” and a violation of the freedom of the press.

Although the constitutionality of the proposed bill was disputed by the Office of the Council of State, Minister Sukumol vowed to improve the draft and send it back for the Council’s consideration. According to Article 28 of Thailand’s current 2007 Constitution, freedom of speech can only be limited by a special law and such limitation must be very specific, while Article 45 guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of speech, and prohibits closure of state and private media outlets.

Harsher Internet censorship and growing lese majeste-related arrests and convictions

Through 2011, authorities continued to use Article 112 and the Computer Crime Act excessively and arbitrarily to curb speech deemed as instigating violence and threatening national security, especially targeting critical remarks against the monarchy. Those advocating reform of the lese majeste law were also threatened with lese majeste charges.

Arrests, prosecutions and convictions for lese majeste and computer crime offences reached a new high in 2011 with at least one new case every month (See box 1 and box 2).

And the rest of the year, the new administration was even more explicit and mounted its efforts to inspect and hunt down perceived anti-monarchy elements.

On 5 August Norawase Yospiyasathien , a university graduate was arrested and charged for posting contents deemed as lese majeste on his blogs while he was still a university student. The complaint was filed to the police by a deputy dean of the faculty where he studied. He was granted bail three days later and is awaiting trial. He was the first to be arrested under Yingluck’s administration.

On 2 September, Surapak Puchaiesaeng, a computer programmer was arrested, detained and had his computer confiscated for posting pictures and messages on Facebook deemed as “insulting” the Thai royal family.  He also was accused of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act. His bail was denied and he was remanded pending a trial.

 

The Nation newspaper’s senior journalist Pravit Rojanapruek has reportedly received online threats for his consistent reports and commentaries highlighting abuse of lese majeste and computer-crime laws.

Before the 3 July election, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) tabled a draft amendment to the 2007 Computer-Related Crime Act to tighten state control over illegal online material and content, especially that deemed insulting to the monarchy. But netizens put up strong resistance to the law, pointing out flawed articles that would further restrain online speech and free flow of information. The amendments could not be enacted as elections were approaching.

To the disappointment of human rights groups and media rightsadvocates, no political party pledged in its manifesto to end restrictions on freedom of expression, including amendment or repeal of laws such as the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situation and Article 112.

In its policy statement to parliament on 25 August, the Yingluck administration pledged to reform laws and judicial procedures in line with democratic principles, to ensure fairness and transparency in implementation of laws, to protect freedom of the press and ensure the public right to information. However, its actions have largely been in contradiction of this policy pledge.

On 5 October, speaking at the UN Human Rights Council, Thailand’s representative admitted problems in the application of the lese majeste law and said the government was seeking expert advice to address this. The Thai representative was responding to the UN Human Right Council’s Universal Periodical Review (UPR) session on Thailand, which had expressed concern over the increasing number of lese majeste-related arrests and prosecutions, the severity of the convictions and the arbitrary use of Article 112 as well as the cyber crime law.

On 26 August, a day after the government’s policy statement to parliament, Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said cracking down on lese majeste was a government priority. This was nearly identical to Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha’s view, who has made known in media interviews that the army would protect the monarchy at all cost. The army chief even suggested that those who supported reform of the lese majeste law should leave the country, adding that advocating reform of Article 112 was, in itself, lese majeste.

In a 29 December comment in Asian Wall Street Journal, political critic Pavin Chachavalpongpun said that the Yingluck administration may have reached “an accommodation with the military and the palace and it was evident that Yingluck let her cabinet members implement harsher measures against perceived anti-monarch elements”.

Yingluck assigned Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm to chair the intra-governmental committee set up with a special mandate to prevent the dissemination through digital technology, including the Internet, of information deemed having lese majeste content. The committee was the latest addition to the state’s lese majeste-control arsenal which already included the Bureau of Prevention and Suppression of Information Technology Crime set up by the Abhisit administration as well as lese majeste monitoring units set up by the armed forces.

Whether motivated by the survival instinct or otherwise, the government’s ambiguous stance on the reform of the lese majeste law gave way to a rejection of any reform of Article 112.

Government plans to control cyberspace

In November, the Thai Government announced that one could be charged for commenting on, sharing or clicking “like” on Facebook content deemed insulting to the Thai royal family. The government has also requested that Facebook remove more than 10,000 pages containing images or text posted from abroad, which allegedly contravene Thailand’s lèse majesté laws. Facebook users have been asked to delete offensive material posted on their profiles or risk being prosecuted under the Computer Crimes Act.  There are over 12 million Facebook users in Thailand, representing close to 20 percent of the population. – Minister Anudith Nakornthab

The intra-governmental committee planned to purchase 400 million Baht worth of Internet monitoring equipment to monitor and block websites with lese majeste content. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology listed about 200 websites in Thailand as having lese majeste content. The committee would coordinate with the police to close those websites. – Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, 12 December

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology vowed to toughen its cyber policing by strengthening its manpower to conduct 24-hour online scrutiny for lese majeste content. – Minister Anudith Nakornthab

The government has set up a “Cyber Scouts” unit comprising volunteers to monitor the Internet and denounce with counter comments, those deemed to be insulting the monarchy online. There are plans to train several hundred Cyber Scouts. – Ministry of Justice

 

More open discussion on lese majeste reform

The frequency and severity of lese majeste convictions towards the end of 2011 not only drew attention to Thailand’s worsening record on freedom of expression but also broke the silence of many sectors of society on the issue, including within the media community. It led to an unprecedented level of domestic and international criticism of the increasingly controversial application of the law.

A trigger point was the conviction of 61-year old Ampon Tangnoppakul who was alleged to have sent four SMS messages with provocative remarks against the Queen at the height of the 2010 red shirt political protests. On 23 November 2011, the Criminal Court sentenced him to 20 years’ imprisonment under Article 112 of the Penal Code and the Computer-Related Crime Act (CCA), the harshest ever lese majeste conviction.

Human Rights Watch criticised the “shocking” severity of the lese-majeste convictions and urged Thailand to amend the law. The Washington-based pro-democracy group Freedom House said the two laws gave authorities “a carte blanche to clamp down on any form of expression”. Supporters of Ampon, known among his family as “Akong” (grandfather), mounted online campaigns to secure his freedom and staged a 112-minute silent protest in front of the Criminal Court to mock Article 112.

A spokesperson of the Office of Prosecutor came out to defend the court’s decision on Ampon, saying it was based on due process and in line with international standards.

Two weeks later, on 8 December, American citizen Joe Gordon (also known by his Thai name Lerpong Wichaikhammat), who was arrested earlier in the year, was sentenced by the Criminal Court to two-and-a-half years in jail under Article 112. His sentence had been reduced as he had pleaded guilty.

The US Embassy in Bangkok declared it was “troubled by recent prosecutions and court decisions that are not consistent with international standards of freedom of expression”. Speaking to the media after the verdict, US Consul-General Elisabeth Pratt described the 30-month sentence as “severe” and pledged support to the US citizen. “We continue to have full respect for the Thai monarchy but we also support the right to freedom of expression as an internationally recognised human right,” she said.

A group called “Fearlessness Walk” comprising academics, human rights activists and ordinary people staged a peace walk in the heart of Bangkok on 10 December to protest against “injustice” and called for reform of Article 112.

By this time, the issue had brought into the open, people with divergent opinions about Article 112 reform, with some calling for its repeal and others for greater censorship.

Meanwhile, on 16 December, royalists, led by ‘multi-colour shirts’ leader, TulSermchaiwong whose group is affiliated to the anti-Thaksin Yellow Shirt movement, staged a protest outside the US embassy against “external interference”, followed by a series of street demonstrations to rally public support to protect the monarchy from threats, including “discussion about the role of the monarch”.

Adding fuel to the fire, the Criminal Court on 15 December sentenced Daranee “Da Torpedo” Charnchoensilpakul to 15 years imprisonment after she pleaded not guilty to the lese majeste charge. Daranee was arrested in July 2008 for a political speech in which she denounced the September 2006 military coup and made indirect references to the monarchy. She had been convicted and sentenced to 18 years during a closed-door trial, which the court later ruled as unconstitutional.

During this period, mainstream media such as the English language dailies The Nation and Bangkok Post played up their coverage of lese majeste-computer crime cases or at least make it more prominent on their front page, giving it prominent place on their front pages. Both newspapers carried a number of critical articles on the abuse of lese majeste-computer crime laws. However, Thai-language dailies were conservative in their coverage of lese majeste caseswhich was attributed to their desire to avoid getting into legal complications.

The Bangkok Post reported that the lese majeste issue had polarized Thai society with some political factions calling for the repeal of the law while others wanting greater censorship. The daily observed that there was public sympathy and concern over the harsh lese majeste convictions and a legal process perceived as deeply flawed.

In her 4 December column in The Nation, Pornpimol Kanchanalak expressed concern over the overzealous application of the lese majeste law, which she believed could damage the very institution it was designed to protect.

TV THAI aired a series of unprecedented broadcasts highlighting events related to the lese majeste convictions as well as interviews with proponents and opponents of the lese majeste-CCA laws. Other free-to-air television stations such as Channel 3 followed suit but with brief, albeit, more frequent reports.

Outlook

The beginning of 2012 had already seen a new high in the confrontation between advocates and opponent of lese majeste law reform.

A group of university academics known as ‘Nitirat’ set up the Committee to Reform Article 112 and launched a nation-wide campaign to gather the minimum 10,000 signatures constitutionally required to initiate legal reform in parliament.

However, ignoring Nitirat and international criticism of the lese majeste law, parliament and government have vowed not to touch Article 112 and gone out of their way to express their support to protecting the monarchy.

In February 2012, Prime Minister Yingluck said her government had no intention to reform the lese majeste law, as demanded by the red shirt movement which backs her administration. The lese majeste reform issuehas now become the most immediate threat to her government.

Dominating social and media space for the rest of the year, the issue could become explosive if sensible discussion gives way to ultranationalist sentiment being whipped up over it.

The NBTC call for the auction of 3G wireless telecom licensesin March and the launch of the national broadcast and telecom master plan and broadcast spectrum table in the middle of the year will test the new body’s independence and capability to ensure a fair and transparent allocation of this multi-billion-baht frequencies once monopolized in the few hands of power associated to the government and the army.

Last but not least, the amendment of the Constitution and the national reconciliation plan, seen by many as an attempt to reinstate Thaksin and consolidate the ruling Pheua Thai party’s electoral support base will be another potentially explosive issue that could affect the stability of the government and the freedom of expression environment.

 


Box 1: Lese Majeste-related Convictions in 2011

15 March – Thanthawut Thaweewaraodomkul, a Red-Shirt supporter and webmaster received a 13-year prison sentence in prison for defaming the monarchy and consenting to allow the contents onto the website norporchorusa.com, which he moderated.

23 November – Ampon Tangnoppakul, known as “Uncle SMS”, received a 20-year prison sentence for sending text messages deemed to have insulted the monarchs. He was arrested in 2010 and denied bail. The shockingly harsh punishment despite his old agehas attracted criticism among international press freedom and human rights advocacy groups who criticised the severity of the prosecution and questioned the standards of the Thai bar.

8 December – Lerpon Wichaikhammar, Thai-born American citizen known as “Joe Gordon”, who was arrested earlier in May and later formally charged with lese Majeste on 30 August. He received  a reduced two-year and a half- prison sentence after he plead guilty for defaming the monarchy. He translated parts of the banned book, The King Never Smiles, and posted it on his blog.

15 December – Daranee Charnchoensilpakul, a Red-Shirt supporter known as “Da Torpedo”, received a 15-year prison sentence for defaming the monarchy. She was found guilty of three counts of violations carrying a penalty of five years each. The charges came as a result of the outspoken critic’s public speeches at rallies denouncing the political coup in 2008. Arrested in July of that year, she has since been held without bail for almost three and a half years.

 

Box 2: Pending Lese Majeste-related Prosecution in 2011

1) Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a 43-year-old executive director of political news website Prachathai.com, was prosecuted on May 31 2010 under Articles 15 of the CCA for intentionally allowing or consenting to incendiary remarks (lese majeste) onto Prachathai online forum. She is freed on bail. Her trial started in February 2011 and was adjourned. The hearing resumed on September 1 but due to Bangkok floods it was adjorned to February 2012.

2) Mr. Akechai Hongkangwarn, a 35-year-old lottery ticket vendor, was prosecuted on 24 May 2011 under Article 112 and under Article 54 of the Film and Video Act (2008 for possession of copies of banned VCD and publications containing lese majeste contents. He is free on bail. He is scheduled to appear in criminal court on September 16 for cross examination of evidence before the court set the hearing dates.

3) Mr. Somyot Preuksakasemsuk, a 50-year-old labor unionist and editor of now-defunct political magazine Voice of Thaksin, was prosecuted on 22 July 2011 under Article 112 of lese majeste law for two articles in the magazine. His requests for bail have been rejected since his arrest on 30 April 2011 on ground that his offense was severe and he could flee if being granted bail.

4) Surachai Danwattananusorn , a 69-year-old leader of Red Siam and an ally to the Red-Shirt movement was arrested on 28 February 2011 for the speeches he made at a Red-Shirt rally in Bangkok on 5 and 6 February 2011. He was charged with lese majeste. His bail was denied and he was remanded pending a trial.

5) Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a 54-year-old history professor at Thammasat University’s faculty of arts, was threatened by a government official on 22 April with a lèse-majesté prosecution in connection with a speech he gave last December proposing a reform of the monarchy. He is awaiting a formal charge and was reported to have been harassed by phone calls and followed and monitored by security officers.

6). Norawase Yospiyasathien , a 22-year-old university graduate who was arrested on August 5 and charged with LM for posting contents deemed as lese majeste on his blogs while he was still a university student. He was granted bail three days later and awaiting trial.

7) Surapak Puchaiesaeng, a 40-year-old computer programmer, who was arrested on September 8 and detained for posting pictures and messages deemed as “insulting” the Thai royal family on Facebook.  He also was accused of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.  His bail was denied and he was remanded pending a trial.