Reporters Without Borders condemns the shameful ill-treatment by prison guards and fellow inmates of those convicted of lèse-majesté in Thailand.
Website designer Thantawut Thaweewarodomkul has been held in custody since April 2012 for posting three messages criticizing the king on the Internet. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for lèse-majesté and received a further three years for violating the Computer Crime Act.
In the Bangkok detention centre where he is held, Thantawut was hit in the face, suffering two black eyes.
"Some of the wardens took me to a different part of the jail and ordered other prisoners to beat me," he told the French news agency AFP. Such practices are common and, according to information reaching Reporters without Borders, other prisoners often do not wait for orders from guards before beating up those convicted of lèse-majesté.
Thailand is among countries “under surveillance” on Reporters Without Borders’ list of Internet Enemies updated on 12 March this year. In 2009, the press freedom organization published a report on the abuse of the lèse-majesté laws in Thailand.
17.03.2011- 13 years in prison for posting three messages on website criticizing king
Reporters Without Borders deplores the 13-year jail sentence that a Bangkok court imposed on 15 March on Thanthawut Taweewarodomkul, the administrator of website linked to the anti-government Red Shirt Movement, for three messages critical of the king that he allegedly posted on the site, called Nor Por Chor USA.
Thanthawut, who has been detained since his arrest on 1 April 2010, was given a 10-year sentence under a section of the criminal code covering lèse-majesté and a three-year sentence under the Computer Crime Act.
The sentences were particularly severe given that the maximum penalty for lèse-majesté is 15 years in prison. The Thai constitution guarantees freedom of expression but, according to a December 2010 report by the iLaw Project, there have been 31 cases of lèse-majesté since 2007, 11 of which also involved the Computer Crimes Act.
When originally interrogated by the police after his arrest, Thanthawut confessed to posting the three offending messages on the site, two of them as the “admin” and the third under a pseudonym. But he retracted this during the trial.
His lawyer has appealed against his conviction. An appeal court is to rule tomorrow on a request for his release on bail. Reporters Without Borders urges the court to grant this request and to overturn his conviction.
Thailand is one of the countries “under surveillance” in the updated “Enemies of the Internet” report that Reporters Without Borders released on 12 March.