BANGKOK – Thailand’s highest court on Wednesday upheld a lese majeste conviction against an online newspaper editor, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who fell foul of the draconian law after failing to speedily remove reader comments deemed critical of the monarchy.
The Supreme Court has upheld the Appeals Court’s eight-month imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 baht imposed on former Prachathai website editor.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the popular Prachatai news portal, was initially charged over 10 reader comments deemed critical of Thai monarchy, posted on the website in 2008
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the popular Prachatai news portal, was initially charged over 10 reader comments posted on the website in 2008.
She was convicted by the Criminal Court in 2012 which found that while she had not personally committed lese majeste, the 20 days she had taken to remove one of the comments fell foul of the law.
The case drew widespread international condemnation at the time, including from Google which described it as a “serious threat” to internet freedom in Thailand.
Wednesday’s final ruling upheld the 2012 conviction that carried an eight-month suspended jail sentence and 20,000 baht fine.
“I am disappointed with the verdict and I think the interpretation of the law has pushed a burden onto service operators,” Ms Chiranuch told AFP after the ruling.
Anyone convicted of insulting the King, Queen, heir or regent can face up to 15 years in jail on each count. Thai-based media have to self censor when writing about the monarchy, while website operators routinely delete reader comments that might land them in hot water.
Prosecutions have soared since the army, which styles itself as the champion of the monarchy, grabbed power in a coup last year. Some of those who have fallen foul of the law have been given 20-30 year jail sentences, often for comments made on social media.
The decision was roundly criticized by human rights and media groups.
The decision “sets an appalling precedent for freedom of expression — particularly online — in a climate where official contempt for free speech has hit new lows,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“This is a chilling verdict that clearly shows the authorities’ fear of allowing free speech online,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s acting senior director for research.