Thai Computer Programmer Detained After Criticizing Monarchy on Facebook

Computer programmer Surapak Puchaieseng was arrested, detained and had his computer confiscated after “insulting” the Thai royal family on Facebook.  Puchaieseng‘s arrest marks the first lèse majesté case  since prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra was elected. He also was accused of violating the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.  Yingluck is the sister of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and assumed office in August 2011.

The number of lèse majesté cases where citizens face criminal charges for defamation of the monarchy has significantly increased in recent years, and can be punished by a prison sentence of up to 15 years.  The 2007 Computer Crimes Act makes the online publication of false information or statements “detrimental” to national security punishable with a five-year prison sentence or several-thousand dollar fine. Authorities have used both laws to target activists, scholars, students, journalists, authors and politicians. In May 2011, Thai authorities arrested U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, with the Thai name Lerpong Wichaikhammat, after he published a blog linking to a banned book on King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and charged him under both lèse majesté laws and the Computer Crimes Act.
 
Freedom House calls on the Thai government to release Puchaieseng and repeal both its lèse majesté and criminal defamation laws  to bring the country in line with international standards of freedom of expression.  Thailand dropped from Partly Free to Not Free in 2011 following four straight years in declines in press freedom according to the Freedom of the Press index.

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