Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Some backgrounds of the arrest

Background of the Story

Pichai and I were members of the underground board called propaganda. It is a free webboard that people chat about the Thailand-related stuffs especially on the topic of the Thai royalties, royal families, their involvement in Thai politics, the coups, their business, assets and stuff like that. Even it’s just a 2 months old, it is such a popular underground chat room with about 800 registered members and gains a huge number of visiting per day. Thai people have to access through web proxies or special program because it was banned from the ICT ministry (the same one who banned youtube).

For the foreign readers, this topic about the King and his family is a taboo for Thai people to talk publicly. Under the lese majeste law, you can be arrested and sent to prison if your action is deemed harmful or disrespectful to the King. Take a look at the recent case of Oliver Juifer, a swiss man and the ban of youtube from Thailand's ICT ministry.

Pichai has been a fixture of that chatroom since its inception in 22 June 2007 and people are impressed by his boldness of expression and his willingness to speak out frankly about the royal family without any fear. He has been a constant poster until his last log on in Aug 24. After that nobody was really sure of why he disappeared but no one speculated anything bad would happen.

Until some rumors had arrived that Pichai was arrested by a group of 50 police commandos who invaded his house, confiscated his computer and took him to police station and later to a Bangkok jail . But nobody was really sure about the news.

Ironically but understandably, we just first heard of the official news of his arrest from the foreign newspaper ( The Financial Times, 2007).

" Thailand's monarchy is shielded from public scrutiny by strict lèse-majesté laws, which make it a serious crime, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, to "defame, insult or threaten" the monarchy.

In addition to discouraging open expressions of criticism or disrespect, these draconian laws have been routinely invoked to quell public discussion within Thailand of the role that the palace - and those acting in its name - has played in the country's turbulent modern history.

A university philosophy professor is under investigation, and facing threats of jail, for asking students in an exam whether the monarchy was necessary for Thai society.

Last year, Thailand also quietly banned The King Never Smiles, a Yale University Press biography portraying King Bhumibol as "anti-democratic".

Thai authorities are struggling, however, to retain control over the image of the monarchy in the electronic media.

In recent weeks, authorities have used a new law to arrest two Thais for what were deemed particularly offensive comments about the monarchy on internet chatrooms, a senior Thai official told the FT."

None of Thai newspapers covered it at that time (later it appeared briefly in the Nation, Thailand English-language newspaper, but none in Thai-language newspaper at all).

After many confirmations, a small group of Thai activists and free-speech supporters from Same Sky Book Magazine tried to investigate and petition for the fair trial and civil treatment of Pichai while in custody. However, they have not received any positive response from the Thai officials yet.

That’s all I have for today. I will update more if I hear anything from this group.