According to an announcement issued today on the website of Prachatai, one of the few independent and outspoken media outlets operating in Thailand,
“On March 6, at 3 pm, seven police officers visited Prachatai office in Bangkok, showing a search warrant and an arrest warrant for Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Prachatai Director. She is charged with the offense according to Article 15 of the Computer Crime Act. She has refused to answer any questions, and is waiting for her lawyer.”
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has confirmed this information. According to the relevant section of the 2007 Computer Crime Act read with section 14, any service provider consenting to any act that involves, among other things, the importing of “false data” likely to “cause damage” to the public or the country’s security, or likely to cause “public panic” is liable to a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to a hundred thousand Thai baht.
The AHRC condemns this police raid and the issuing of the arrest warrant for the Prachatai director in the strongest possible terms. There can be little room for doubt that this raid is part of the systematic ultraconservative agenda since the 2006 army coup to intimidate and silence critics, human rights defenders and social activists in Thailand. In fact, the odious law under which the raid and arrest warrant have been issued is one of the main planks in the platform designed to be built over the heads of dissenters in Thailand that was given effect by an assembly of military appointees in 2007.
The AHRC expresses its strong support for the staff of Prachatai, for the work that it is committed to doing as an independent media agency working under very difficult conditions and at a time of dramatic social and political change in Thailand; a time when outspokenness and sincerity are the rarest and most valuable commodities.
The AHRC calls upon all regional and international media organisations, human rights groups, and the UN Human Rights Council, which is opening its tenth session in Geneva, and UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression to join in expressing outrage at this latest attack on freedom of speech and thought in Thailand, and call for the immediate cessation of arrests and threats, against Prachatai and all other media and human rights organizations there.