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09BANGKOK610 LESE MAJESTE DEBATE ENTERS PUBLIC DOMAIN; WEBSITE MODERATOR ARRESTED UNDER COMPUTER CRIME ACT

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“196042″,”3/10/2009 10:00″,

 

“09BANGKOK610″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN”,

 

“09BANGKOK140|09BANGKOK325|09BANGKOK520

 

“,”VZCZCXRO4950

 

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

 

DE RUEHBK #0610/01 0691000

 

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

 

P 101000Z MAR 09

 

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

 

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6336

 

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

 

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6833

 

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9490

 

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5519

 

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5322

 

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1439

 

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2626

 

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6285

 

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

 

RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY

 

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

 

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

 

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01

 

OF 03 BANGKOK 000610

 

NOFORN

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2019

 

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, KPAO, KJUS, TH

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND: LESE MAJESTE DEBATE ENTERS PUBLIC

 

DOMAIN; WEBSITE MODERATOR ARRESTED UNDER COMPUTER CRIME ACT

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 520 (PERMSEC RAISES LESE MAJESTE)

 

B. BANGKOK 325 (LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS)

 

C. BANGKOK 140 (THAI COURT SENTENCES)

 

BANGKOK 00000610 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4 (B) and (D)

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

 

——————-

 

1. (C) Issues associated with implementation of the lese

 

majeste (offense to the monarchy) provisions of the Thai

 

Criminal Code continue to generate headlines and controversy.

 

The police Crime Suppression Division (CSD) arrested

 

Executive Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn of Prachatai.com,

 

an online news website, on March 6 and charged her with

 

violating the 2007 Computer Crime Act, apparently due to

 

readers\’ comments posted to the site\’s Web board in 2008.

 

Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, convicted for lese

 

majeste in January, received a royal pardon February 18 and

 

returned to Australia. Dual national academic Giles

 

Ungpakorn fled Thailand for the U.K. February 9, fearing he

 

would face similar charges, and launched an overt

 

anti-monarchy, pro-republican campaign that would not have

 

been possible in Thailand. A group of 50 foreign scholars

 

called for open debate and reform of the lese majeste

 

provisions of the criminal code in a March 4 video conference

 

broadcast by a cautious Foreign Correspondents\’ Club of

 

Thailand (FCCT).

 

2. (C) Comment: The RTG\’s arrests of individuals under the

 

lese majeste provisions of the criminal code and the 2007

 

Computer Crime Act are intended to protect the monarchy.

 

Ironically, the heightened pace of arrests and charges,

 

especially those involving prominent figures, may cause

 

liberal-minded Thais to resent restrictions on speech and to

 

associate the monarchy with acts of repression, weakening

 

domestic support for the institution the legal actions seek

 

to protect. This issue and the controversy it generates will

 

likely continue through royal succession, as various parties

 

position themselves for the inevitable redefinition of the

 

institution of monarchy and its role in Thai society once the

 

revered King Bhumibol passes from the scene.

 

3. (C) Comment, cont: The RTG remains very sensitive to

 

characterization by foreigners of implementation of lese

 

majeste provisions as an issue of limiting freedom of speech,

 

as the complaint by a top MFA official about coverage in our

 

annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices indicates

 

(ref A). The RTG is unlikely to alter its stance merely due

 

to criticism or even well-meaning advice from abroad. We do

 

not recommend the USG make any public comment on the

 

application of the law or on individual cases, but will

 

continue to raise our concerns in private and include

 

relevant material in the annual Human Rights report. End

 

Summary and Comment.

 

WEB EDITOR ARRESTED, WEB COMMUNITY WARNED

 

—————————————–

 

4. (C) Police officers from the Crime Suppression Division

 

(CSD) arrested Executive Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn of

 

Prachatai.com, an online news site not associated with any

 

traditional media outlet, in a surprise raid on March 6 that

 

rattled the online news community. Chiranuch was released on

 

bail the same evening. The police cited Article 15 of the

 

Computer Crime Act (CCA), which states that any service

 

provider intentionally supporting or consenting to a number

 

of offenses related to dissemination of material, including

 

posting content harmful to national security, is subject to

 

imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to 100,000

 

baht ($2,777). The arrest featured prominently in

 

Thai-language media reports on March 7, with many print

 

editions featuring the story on the front-page. (Note:

 

BANGKOK 00000610 002.2 OF 003

 

Prachatai.com was created in 2004 to counter Thaksin-era

 

online censorship and perceived corporate and political bias

 

in the print media. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, the site has

 

daily averages of 20-30,000 readers and 300,000 page hits.

 

End Note.)

 

5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX on March 9 that the Ministry of

 

Information and Communication Technology (MICT) had

 

previously warned XXXXXXX about specific reader comments

 

through a series of at least three formal letters — in

 

particular, if a posting had been permitted to remain online

 

for more than 15 days. XXXXXXXXXXXX

 

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6. (C) The exact source of the charge remained unclear, but

 

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7. (SBU) Ironically, the raid on Prachatai.com took place on

 

the heels of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva\’s pledge to ensure media

 

freedom at Asia News Network\’s (ANN) 10th anniversary

 

celebration in Bangkok earlier on March 6. (Note: ANN is an

 

alliance of 20 newspapers in 17 countries, and claims to be

 

the biggest media alliance worldwide in terms of readership.

 

End Note.) Media coverage of the celebration quoted Abhisit

 

as acknowledging Thailand\’s decline in media freedom,

 

asserting the need to clarify standards for enforcement of

 

the lese majeste provision of law, and promising new laws and

 

regulations under consideration will protect media

 

professionals and increase information available to the

 

public.

 

AUSTRALIAN PARDONED, RETURNED HOME

 

———————————-

 

8. (C/NF) Australian author Harry Nicolaides received a royal

 

pardon on February 18, and he returned home to Australia on

 

February 21. The Thai Criminal Court had sentenced

 

Nicolaides on January 19 to three years\’ imprisonment for

 

lese majeste, based on his 2005 novel Verisimilitude, which

 

had a one paragraph account of personal shortcomings of a

 

fictional Crown Prince that closely tracked the life of the

 

current Crown Prince. Nicolaides was promoted by some

 

foreign commentators as a prisoner of conscience/free speech,

 

but the Australian embassy walked a fine line in quietly

 

working for his pardon, XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

DUAL NATIONAL ACADEMIC FLEES, LAUNCHES RED SIAM MANIFESTO

 

—————————– —————————

 

9. (C) Chulalongkorn political science professor Giles \”Ji\”

 

Ungpakorn, charged with lese majeste on January 20 for his

 

2007 book \”A Coup for the Rich,\” fled for the U.K. on

 

February 9. XXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX\” Upon his arrival in the U.K.,

 

Ungpakorn released a political manifesto entitled \”Red Siam.\”

 

BANGKOK 00000610 003.2 OF 003

 

The manifesto attacked the historical role of the monarchy

 

and the King personally and called for the establishment of a

 

Thai republic; while the manifesto is in keeping with the

 

tenor of Ji\’s Marxist writings over three decades, he had not

 

previously attacked the monarchy so directly. Thai media

 

reported that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on March 9

 

indicated publicly that Abhisit may engage the British

 

government about the possibility of extraditing Ungpakorn on

 

the charge of lese majeste during his visit to London to

 

attend the G-20 summit on April 2.

 

INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS CALL FOR OPEN DEBATE OF LAW

 

——————————————— —–

 

10. (C) The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT)

 

hosted its first web-based press conference on March 4,

 

featuring U.S.-based professor Thongchai Winichakul and

 

Australian professor Andrew Walker, who called for an open

 

debate about the lese majeste provision of the criminal code.

 

The video conference was accompanied by the release of a

 

draft letter from 50 international scholars/activists to

 

Abhisit that urged the RTG to reform the law that generated

 

\”heightened criticism of the monarchy\” and encouraged

 

\”frequent abuse… against political opponents.\” FCCT board

 

chairman and journalist Marwaan Macan-Markar told us on March

 

4 that he worried that the FCCT could be charged for helping

 

to disseminate views offensive to the monarchy.

 

KING\’S VIEWS IGNORED IN POSITIONING FOR FUTURE?

 

——————————————— –

 

11. (C) A number of international commentators, including a

 

landmark December 2008 edition of the Economist, have

 

criticized King Bhumibol for not intervening in the current

 

burst of lese majeste activity. In fact, the King\’s most

 

extensive comments on the matter, given during his annual

 

birthday speech in 2005, put him on the side of minimal use

 

of a tool that sources close to the palace claim that he and

 

his daughter Princess Sirindhorn do not support. (note: The

 

implied subtext of the December 2005 speech was that since

 

the King himself was open to criticism, the PM at the time,

 

Thaksin, should also be.)

 

12. (SBU) Select passages from the speech\’s lengthy discourse

 

on the issue follow: \”…when you say the King can do no

 

wrong, it is wrong. We should not say that…actually I want

 

them to criticize because whatever I do, I want to know that

 

people agree or disagree…Actually I must also be

 

criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I

 

do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the King

 

cannot be criticized, it means that the King is not

 

human…If they criticize correctly, I have no problem.\”

 

13. (C) Others members of the royal family and those close to

 

it, however, appear to have a different view, particularly of

 

criticism not directed at the King but the institution itself

 

and the other two individuals covered by lese majeste: the

 

Queen and Crown Prince. While it has generally long been

 

understood that foreigners who show remorse will be pardoned

 

by the King, the standards for Thai citizens appear

 

different. When a U.S. businessman privately raised concerns

 

of how the cases against Nicolaides and Ji Ungpakorn were

 

damaging Thailand\’s image with members of the Privy Council

 

in early February, Privy Council President Prem replied:

 

\”There will be movement on Nicolaides soon. But Ji is Thai.\”

 

Thai citizen and United Front for Democracy Against

 

Dictatorship (UDD) supporter Bunyuen Prasoetying was

 

sentenced to six years\’ imprisonment in November 2008 after

 

committing lese majeste; there is no indication at this time

 

that a pardon is in the offing.

 

JOHN

 

 

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Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

One Response

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  1. […] a later and related cable, John says this: “The RTG remains very sensitive to characterization by foreigners of […]


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