‘Prachatai’ means “free people” in Thai. Prachatai calls itself an online newspaper, with Thai and English versions. You can see the English version here. Prachatai in the Thai internet universe is a bit like this website, Kafila, only a lot more popular. Prachatai’s webmaster, Chiranuch Premchaiporn, is facing trial for comments posted on the site that allegedly violated Thailand’s lese majeste (insulting the monarch) laws. While the lese majeste charges against the person who wrote that comment have been dropped, Chiranuch is still being charged under lese majeste and other laws, including ‘intermediary liability’ laws. Intermediary liability laws in relation to internet freedom mean that if you post a comment on my site that violates the law, I too will be charged as having abetted the crime. India’s cyber crime laws were amended some time ago to remove the intermediary clause, not because the Government of India was concerned about free speech, but because of Ebay India, whose head was charged and arrested when a user uploaded a pornographic ‘MMS’ on Ebay India that featured minors.
I first met Chiranuch at an social media workshop in Thailand, and then again last September in Budapest, Hungary, at a Google conference on internet freedom across the world. It is curcuial to note that upon her return from Budapest, she was arrested, given bail for a very high bail amount, and fresh new charges – and a lot of them – were added against her – clearly, they don’t like her talking about internet freedom. If convicted, she faces up to 50 years in jail! See here an article in The Economist. The trial began today, 4 February, a few hours ago.
Chiranuch could easily have escaped Thailand and taken asylum elsewhere by now. She hasn’t done that because she is consciously fighting a battle for freedom of expression in Thailand. She didn’t want to run away because it would have discouraged, rather than encouraged, that crucial fight.
One expresses solidarity with her, one hopes she is free, and that her case becomes the turning point in the fight from democracy and democratic rights in Thailand. Above all, one salutes her courage. For those who are interested in the details, given below are notes from the Thai Netizen Network.