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Thai Website Editor Facing up to 20 Years in Jail



Embattled director of on-line newspaper Chiranuch Premchaiporn was among three female journalists who won the 2011 Courage in Journalism Award given by the International Women's Media Foundation


A prominent Thai website editor facing up to 20 years in jail appeared in court Wednesday to defend herself against charges relating to remarks about the monarchy posted by other people on her website.

Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the editor of the popular Prachatai news website, denied allegations that she did not remove ten online posts perceived as critical to the monarchy quickly enough in 2008.

She told the Bangkok Criminal Court that she “immediately” blocked any comments flagged as “improper” by the Information and Communication Technology ministry.

Chiranuch described a sharp increase in online activity in the wake of a 2006 military coup that sparked five years of political turmoil in Thailand.

“Various comments were posted on our web board which reflected the political situation at that time. They were intensely political and there were stronger opinions which opposed the coup,” she said.

She said up to 30,000 users a day visited the Prachatai web forum between 2007 and 2008, more than ten times previous levels.

Chiranuch, who faces a second trial under Thailand’s controversial royal insult and computer laws, said the site voluntarily removed about three percent of all posts during this time.

The Internet forum was closed in July 2010 amid concerns over a crackdown on commentators following deadly anti-government “Red Shirt” street protests in Bangkok.

Thailand has drawn concerns from rights groups for suppressing freedom of speech using the Computer Crimes Act and lese majeste legislation, which bans criticism of the Royals.

Yingluck said the government would review charges stemming from unrest before and after the coup, suggesting protests such as the occupation of Bangkok airports in 2008 by the royalist Yellow Shirts could also be included.

She said another committee would be set up to coordinate the response to the report and “show the government is serious and willing to work with this commission to forge genuine national reconciliation”.

The Thai premier also promised “speedy and serious” measures to compensate those affected by unrest, without specifying the type of remedy planned.

Academics have noted a sharp increase of new royal insult cases in recent years and rights groups have expressed concern that the law was used to suppress freedom of expression under the last government, considered close to elites that backed the 2006 coup against Thaksin.

Commissioners said they were concerned that an apparent increase in lese majeste prosecutions “could have political impact”.

Under Thai legislation, anybody convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.


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