Bloggers in Thailand, be careful what you write and link to from your website.
For some years now I have been very careful about what I write and discuss on the subject of Thailand. The name of the country is supposed to translate as the “land of the free”. However, it is only free up to an extent. Thailand these days now has one of the worst track records for freedom of the press. I own a number of blogs and forums. Everything has to be carefully moderated and anything posted that might be seen as detrimental to the institution has to be quickly deleted. This includes comments made by other people. If we delay deleting something, even as late as only 24 hours, we could be arrested and sent to prison. It doesn’t matter if we wrote it or not. As moderators and administrators we have to take responsibility.
The highest institution is of course the royal family. I think even newcomers to blogging in Thailand know that they should avoid that subject. Personally I don’t discuss anything to do with the royal family on my blogs unless I close the comment section. It is just too risky. And not only in the comments as some Thai people might misunderstand the intention of my own words. When it comes to the lese majeste law, anyone can file a complaint with the police and it must be followed up. The Nation recently reported that between 2006-2009 the number of cases have increased by 1,500% compared to the previous period [see story].
What I want to do here today is warn any foreign bloggers or forum moderators out there based in Thailand that they too can be targetted. It wasn’t that long ago that an Australian wrote a novel that had a page about a fictitious crown prince. It was self-published and only sold a handful of copies. But, that didn’t make any difference. He was arrested and charged with lese majeste [see story]. I cannot even tell you about the case otherwise I could be charged with lese majeste for talking about it. That is what happened to some foreign journalists who gave a talk at the FCCT in Bangkok [see story]. So, up to now, it is pretty clear you have to be careful what you write and discuss on your blogs and forums based in Thailand.
Now comes the news that an American citizen has just been arrested for linking to a pdf download of a banned book about the Thai King. We don’t know many details yet as the Thai media are not allowed to discuss lese majeste cases in detail. However, from Prachatai I have managed to get the followed information:
Apparently the DSI brought Joe (not his real name) to the Ratchada Criminal Court on 26th May 2011 with the charges of lese majeste and the Computer Crime act. Joe is a 54 year old resident of Nakhon Ratchasima Province. He is Thai by birth but has lived in Colarado, America for 30 years. He recently returned to Thailand for medical treatment. The blog in question dates back to 2007 where he allegedly put a link to a download of a banned book, “The King Never Smiles”. Joe denies doing this and has requested help form the American Embassy. He was denied bail and now resides in jail at the Bangkok Remand Prison.
So, I cannot emphasise enough, if you are a blogger or forum administrator based in Thailand or go to Thailand for your holidays, be careful what you write, or allow to be written on your blogs and forums. You could end up in a Thai prison if you don’t practice self-censorship. Don’t say that you weren’t warned.
Link to original story in Thai: http://www.prachatai.com/journal/2011/05/35124
UPDATE: This story has now been picked up by the AP and AFP and is being widely reported around the world [see story]. New details emerging from the police are this: “He translated articles which are deemed insulting to the monarchy and posted them on his blog. Also he provided a link to a book”. I will update more later if anything new emerges. However, we are not allowed to report on exactly what he translated.