Thai Court Gives Suspended Sentence to Web Editor in Free Speech Case

Posted May 30th, 2012 at 6:20 pm (UTC-5)
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A Thai court on Wednesday convicted a website operator on computer crimes charges for not quickly removing a posting by a blogger deemed offensive to the country's monarchy.

The Bangkok Criminal Court gave an eight-month suspended jail sentence to Chiranuch Premchaiporn for not respecting a court order to promptly remove the comments from her popular news website, Prachatai. She faced up to 20 years in prison.

Judge Kampol Rungrat told the court that the comments caused “damage to the reputation of the king, queen and heir-apparent” and that the failure to remove them was a violation of the controversial Computer Crimes Act.

Chiranuch, who was also fined $630, originally was given a one-year jail term. But it was reduced to eight months and suspended because she cooperated with the court.

Chiranuch told reporters she thought the suspended sentence was “acceptable,” but that she might appeal the guilty verdict.

Also Wednesday, anti-government protesters rallied in Bangkok against a bill aimed at granting amnesty for political offenses during the past six years.

The protesters, led by the People's Alliance for Democracy, also known as the Yellow Shirts, say the bill could pave the way for the return of controversial Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The Yellow Shirts rallies led to Thaksin's ouster in a 2006 coup.

The governing Pheu Thai Party says the bill will promote reconciliation in Thai society, by granting amnesty to those linked to political violence in 2010 that left at least 90 people dead an as many as 2,000 others wounded.

Speakers at the rally said they fear the bill undermines the judiciary and Thai constitution.

Thaksin's opponents accused him of corruption and abuse of power during his five years in office. In 2008, the court found him guilty of corruption and sentenced him to two years in prison, but he fled the country, saying the charges were politically motivated.

Political analysts say Thaksin's supporters, known as Red Shirts, appear to be divided. Many Red Shirts say that instead of giving priority to Thaksin's return, they want to see full investigations into the 2010 deaths.

The former prime minister has asked his supporters to focus on reconciliation to open the way for his return to Thailand.