[SEAPA’s response on today’s postponement of the verdict on the Chiranuch Premchaiporn case]
SEAPA finds today’s announcement of the postponement of the verdict on the case of Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn unexpected: it is highly unusual for a court verdict to be postponed, and certainly unanticipated on our part.
A judge hearing the case announced to people in the courtroom, including international and media observers, awaiting the verdict that the reading of the decision has been postponed to 30 May because there are “too many documents to consider”.
SEAPA hopes that the delay is an indication that the court will make a more careful deliberation of the case to give a fair judgment to this complex case, with far reaching implications.
On the other hand, the immediate implication of the delay is that closure of the high profile case also has to be postponed.
The case against Chiranuch–charged of violating the Computer Crimes Act (2007) for allowing comments deemed lese majeste in the online forum of political news website Prachatai–has received considerable attention from the international human rights and journalist community.
SEAPA considers the case highly important because of its implications to freedom of expression, especially in the light of the trend towards online journalism, even in the region. We reiterate our concern about the filing of charges against intermediaries of free public expression, and renew our call for government to immediately review the implementation of the Computer Crime Act.
And as a safety valve, the government must amend the law, particularly Section 15 to ensure that intermediaries will be given a fair and reasonable treatment under the law and will not be victimized in any political circumstance as has been the case of Chiranuch and many others.
SEAPA will continue our efforts and collaborate with local and international advocacy groups to ensure that Chiranuch will be given a fair treatment and help bring the law and its enforcement in line with international standards and practices.