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Freedom of expression & censorship in thailand


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Freedom of expression & censorship in thailand

  1. 1. International Freedom of Expression Collaboration Prepared by Gaby Canavati
  2. 2. Thailand has recently gained infamous recognition for its harsh censorship laws, leading many scholars, governments, and human rights activists to accuse Thailand of violating one of the fundamental universal human rights, freedom of expression. The following presentation explains IFEC’s findings on Thailand’s current freedom of expression and censorship policy landscape.
  3. 3.  The Royal Thai Military initiated a coup d’état against the ex-prime minister Thaksin Sinawatra  Reports indicate a conflicted relationship between Thaksin and the King commenting that Sinawatra was known for creating a disjointed society full of nepotism, corruption and insults towards the King.  After the coup and during military rule, censorship, especially on the Internet increased dramatically because of criticism against the King and his family for being “prime instigators” of the coup.  After the coup, the Constitution of 2007 was created along with the Computer Crime Act of 2007 in addition to more strict enforcement of the lese-majeste.
  4. 4.  Constitution of 2007: A person shall enjoy the liberty to express his or her opinion, make speeches, write, print, publicize and make expression by other means. The restriction on liberty under paragraph one shall not be imposed except by virtue of the provisions of law specifically enacted for the purpose of maintaining the security of the State, safeguarding the rights, liberties, dignity, reputation, family or privacy rights of other persons…  Lèse-Majesté: Whoever defames, insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir- apparent, or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding 15 years  Computer Crime Act of 2007: If any person commits any offence of the following acts shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand baht or both: (3) that involves import to a computer system of any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom's security under the Criminal Code
  5. 5.  “Da Torpedo”  In June 2013, Daranee Charnchoengsilpakul gained a 15-year sentence after insulting the King. Daranee, nicknamed “Da Torpedo,” for her blunt speaking style, already served four years in prison for using “impolite language” at a rally in 2008. Daranee served as a journalist until she became an activist after the coup of 2006 when former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown. She gave racy speeches at red shirt (Thaksin supporters) rallies.  “Grandfather SMS”  Aphon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year old grandfather received a 20-year sentence in November 2011 for four text messages he sent from his phone to a government official that were reportedly offensive to the Queen. Besides lèse-majesté, Tangnoppakul was also indicted under the Computer Crime Act. Tangnoppakil denied that he sent the messages. He claimed that he did not even know how to use the text messaging function. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison on multiple charges, one of the longest prison sentences as a result of these laws. He died during his first year in prison from mouth cancer, which consequently raised criticism of the lèse-majesté law.  Joe Gordon  Thai-American, Received 2 ½ years in prison for translating parts of a banned biography of the King and uploading them to a website. He did the translations while in Colorado, but was arrested when visiting Thailand.
  6. 6.  Lese Majeste and the Computer Crime Act of 2007 infringe on the freedom of expression, as guaranteed in the Constitution of 2007  Policies and their resulting punishments are not in line with international treaties on human rights  The laws are ambiguous, resulting in 100% conviction rate  Used as a political tool—silence opposition forces
  7. 7.  Define more specifically what is considered a crime under these laws  The appropriate Parliament committee should conduct a comparative study to review such laws in other monarchies—how are other monarchies addressing this same issue?  Thai government should comply with international regulations on human rights, thus lessening the punishment and the counts of such a “crime” is crucial  Thailand should honor its Constitution, and enforce the peoples’ rights to opinionate or criticize, defend themselves and have a fair and public trial  The government should make public the number of lese majeste cases and prosecutions as well as the content that resulted in their conviction—what exactly did they say or do?
  8. 8.  IFEC prioritizes the right to freedom of expression for all people. We recognize Thailand as a vital country in Southeast Asia, both politically and economically. As an increasingly mobile and online nation, laws like lèse-majesté and the Computer Crime Act of 2007 only hinder Thailand’s pioneering possibilities as it violates one of the universal fundamental human rights, freedom of expression. We urge Thailand to consider our recommendations in order to create a more free society, recognizing that the ability to openly communicate and criticize is part of building a more democratic country, one of Thailand’s primary goals. We are confident that our recommendations will only help Thailand push forward as a leader in both the ASEAN region and around the world.