112 Scholars call for reviews of Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act

International concern for human rights in Thailand has been made clear in an open letter to Thailand’s Prime Minister, Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra.

112 international scholars have signed a letter calling for reviews of lese majeste and computer crimes laws in Thailand. The letter draws attention to human rights issues and the political use of lese majeste (Article 112 of the Criminal Code) and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

The scholars call on Ms. Yingluck’s government to review the cases of those already charged and convicted, review the laws as they are currently used, and to release on bail those prisoners currently fighting their cases in the courts.

Since 2005, the use of the lese majeste law has seen a huge increase in the number of charges coming before Thai courts. Statistics from the Office of the Judiciary show a 1,500% increase. Many of these cases are related to the political conflict that has been constant since the 2006 military coup.

Dr. Kevin Hewison, Professor of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Thai studies expert comments, “The political abuse of these laws has seen a precipitous deterioration of human rights in Thailand. Censorship of web sites, self-censorship in the media and many, many charges of disloyalty mean serious restrictions on freedom of expression.”

These draconian laws that mean that those convicted can spend up to 15 years in jail on each charge. Recent convictions have seen jail terms of 3 to 20 years. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a webmaster for the independent Prachatai web site, returns to court this week, and faces charges that could mean 20 years in prison.

The concern expressed by these scholars from 15 countries and territories is heightened by recent decisions on prosecutions. Political activist, unionist and editor Mr. Somyos Preuksakasemsuk was detained for 84 days before being sent for prosecution on lese majeste charges. Like Mr. Somyos, American citizen Mr. Joe Gordon was held for 84 days before being charged for offences that are alleged to have taken place in the U.S.A. Bail has been refused in both cases.

Dr. Michael Connors, a Thai Studies specialist and Associate Professor at LaTrobe University observes: “The continued imprisonment without bail of those charged with lese majeste is a completely disproportionate and punitive response to an alleged crime.”

Academic freedom has been attacked. Charges and threats like those targeting Dr. Somsak Jeamteerasakul, an associate professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Thammasat University, mean that scholars are unwilling to speak freely.

After several years of political conflict in Thailand, the advent of a new government offers the first opportunity in several years to review the use of these oppressive laws.

Dr. Tyrell Haberkorn, an expert on human rights issues in Thailand and a Research Fellow at the Australian National University states: “Without the urgent review of Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, with serious attention to possible repeal and immediate release of those currently imprisoned or detained awaiting trial, there is no hope for the consolidation of the rule of law or the development of a meaningful human rights regime in Thailand.”

000

H.E. Yingluck Shinawatra
Prime Minister
Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit
Bangkok 10300 Thailand

August 31, 2011

Dear Prime Minister

112 Scholars call for action on Article 112 and 2007 Computer Crimes Act

Following the 19 September 2006 coup, we the undersigned 112 international scholars have been concerned by the diminution of the space for the free exchange of ideas in Thailand. We note with concern several pressing human rights issues, including political prisoners and unresolved questions of accountability for violence.

Since April-May 2010, we watched essential freedoms constricted, with a number of new arrests and charges brought under Article 112 of the Criminal Code and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act.

We welcome your acknowledgment of the seriousness of abuses connected to Article 112. However, we note with concern that while cases of prominent figures may be covered by the media, there are many cases where government and media have been silent. Many individuals appear to be in pre-charge detention and others have been charged and refused bail while awaiting trial. In addition, we are concerned to note that charges under these laws have continued to be filed in the past few weeks.

Statistics from the Office of the Attorney General last year show the number of new lese majeste cases received by prosecutors have doubled since 2005; statistics from the Office of the Judiciary show a much more dramatic increase.

We are very concerned that explicitly political cases are continuing to be processed. For example, Mr. Somyos Preuksakasemsuk was detained for 84 days before formal charges were recently filed. In this case, much like in the case against Prachatai webmaster Ms. Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Mr. Somyos is being prosecuted not for anything he said or did himself, but on the basis of someone else's writing in a publication he edited. In the case of U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, he too was held for 84 days before the recent filing of formal charges. The Criminal Court has repeatedly denied bail requests for Mr. Somyos and Mr. Gordon.

Recent statements and petitions by academics and writers in Thailand and the U.S. Embassy statement on Mr. Gordon’s case reflect mounting domestic and international concern regarding these kinds of cases.

Detention and intimidation of other citizens, is symptomatic of a broader set of practices which threaten human rights and the future of democracy in Thailand. We take this opportunity to respectfully request that you:

1) undertake a thorough review of all arrests and prosecutions of Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, and related provisions;

2) initiate procedures that would grant bail to those currently incarcerated under Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act so that they are able to adequately prepare legal defenses; and

3) review Article 112 and the 2007 Computer Crimes Act, and related provisions, and establish mechanisms that eliminate the political abuse of these laws.

Respectfully yours,

Adadol Ingawanij, Senior Research Fellow, University of Westminster, United Kingdom
Dennis Altman, Professor, LaTrobe University, Australia
Dennis Arnold, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
Aileen S.P.Baviera, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
Peter F. Bell, Emeritus Professor, State University of New York, U.S.A.
Katherine Bowie, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.
Shaun Breslin, Professor, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
Andrew Brown, Lecturer, University of New England, Australia
Joseph A. Camilleri, Professor, La Trobe University, Australia
Toby Carroll, Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore, Singapore
William Case, Professor, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Dae-oup Chang, Senior Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Noam Chomsky, Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.
John Clark, Professor, University of Sydney, Australia
Peter A. Coclanis, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
Michael Connors, Associate Professor, LaTrobe University, Australia
Vicki Crinis, Research Fellow, University of Wollongong, Australia
Thomas Davis, Lecturer, University of Melbourne, Australia
Heather D'Cruz, Adjunct Research Associate, Curtin University, Australia
Richard F. Doner, Professor, Emory University, U.S.A.
Jamie Doucette, Lecturer, University of British Columbia, Canada
Bjoern Dressel, Research Fellow, Griffith University, Australia
Mark Driscoll, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
John S. Dryzek, Professor, Australian National University, Australia
Nancy Eberhardt, Professor, Knox College, U.S.A.
Grant Evans, Fellow, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Nicholas Farrelly, Research Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
Federico Ferrara, Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Robert Fisher, Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney, Australia
David Fullbrook, Graduate student, National University of Singapore, Singapore
Arnika Fuhrmann, Research Scholar, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Paul Gellert, Associate Professor, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, U.S.A.
Kristi Giselsson, Research Associate, University of Tasmania, Australia
Jim Glassman, Associate Professor, University of British Columbia, Canada
Mikael Gravers, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark
Geoffrey C. Gunn, Professor, Nagasaki University, Japan
Tyrell Haberkorn, Research Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
Vedi Hadiz, Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
Shahar Hameiri, Postdoctoral Fellow, Murdoch University, Australia
Annette Hamilton, Professor, University of New South Wales, Australia
Adam Hanieh, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Eva Hansson, Senior Lecturer, Stockholm University, Sweden
Rachel Harrison, Reader, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Paul Healy, Senior Lecturer, University of New England, Australia
Steve Heder, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Michael Herzfeld, Professor, Harvard University, U.S.A.
Kevin Hewison, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
Allen Hicken, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, U.S.A.
C.J. Hinke, Independent scholar, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand, Thailand
Philip Hirsch, Professor, University of Sydney, Australia
Thomas Hoy, Lecturer, Thammasat University, Thailand
Caroline Hughes, Associate Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
Paul D. Hutchcroft, Professor, Australian National University, Australia
Feyzi Ismail, Doctoral candidate, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Søren Ivarsson, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Kanishka Jayasuriya, Professor, University of Adelaide, Australia
Lee Jones, Lecturer, Queen Mary College, United Kingdom
Patrick Jory, Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland, Australia
Arne L. Kalleberg, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
Charles Keyes, Professor Emeritus, University of Washington, U.S.A.
Damien Kingsbury, Professor, Deakin University, Australia
H. Ruediger Korff, Professor, University of Passau, Germany
John Langer, Honorary Fellow, Victoria University, Australia
Tomas Larsson, Lecturer, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Laurids Sandager Lauridsen, Professor, Roskilde University, Denmark
Peter Leyland, Professor, London Metropolitan University, United Kingdom
Samson Lim, Doctoral candidate, Cornell University, U.S.A.
Peter Limqueco, Co-editor, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Philippines
Robert Manne, Professor, La Trobe University, Australia
Thomas Marois, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Mary Beth Mills, Professor, Colby College, U.S.A.
Daniel Bertrand Monk, Professor, Colgate University, U.S.A.
Michael Montesano, Visiting Research Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
Paolo Novak, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
Chris Nyland, Professor, Monash University, Australia
Rene Ofreneo, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
John Pickles, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
-------------------------------------------- (This name has been removed due to a request from a pettitioner - June 19, 2014)
Pongphisoot Busbarat, Research Associate, Australian National University, Australia
Poowin Bunyavejchewin, Graduate student, University of Hull, United Kingdom
Prajak Kongkirati, Doctoral candidate, Australian National University, Australia
Preedee Hongsaton, Doctoral candidate, Australian National University, Australia
Rajah Rasiah, Professor, University of Malaya, Malaysia
Craig J. Reynolds, Professor, Australian National University, Australia
David Rezvani, Visiting Assistant Professor, Trinity College, U.S.A.
Garry Rodan, Professor, Murdoch University, Australia
Eric Sheppard, Professor, University of Minnesota, U.S.A.
elin o'Hara slavick, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A.
Johannes Dragsbaek Schmidt, Associate Professor, Aalborg University, Denmark
Gavin Shatkin, Associate Professor, University of Michigan, U.S.A.
Mark Smith, Senior Lecturer, The Open University, United Kingdom
Claudio Sopranzetti, Doctoral candidate, Harvard University, U.S.A.
Andrew Spooner, Doctoral candidate, Nottingham Trent University, United Kingdom
Irene Stengs, Senior Researcher, Meertens Institute, The Netherlands
Geoffrey Stokes, Professor, Deakin University, Australia
David Streckfuss, Independent scholar, Thailand
Janet Sturgeon, Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Donald K. Swearer, Emeritus Professor, Swarthmore College, U.S.A.
Eduardo Climaco Tadem, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
Teresa S. Encarnacion Tadem, Professor, University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines
Michelle Tan, Independent Scholar, U.S.A.
Nicholas Tapp, Professor Emeritus, Australian National University, Australia
Thongchai Winichakul, Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison, U.S.A.
Robert Tierney, Lecturer, Charles Sturt University, Australia
Serhat Uenaldi, Doctoral candidate, Humboldt-University of Berlin, Germany
Andrew Vandenberg, Senior Lecturer, Deakin University, Australia
Joel Wainwright, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, U.S.A.
Andrew Walker, Senior Fellow, Australian National University, Australia
Meredith Weiss, Associate Professor, University at Albany, SUNY, U.S.A.
Marion Werner, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, U.S.A.
Ingrid Wijeyewardene, Lecturer, University of New England, Australia

Comments

It's too bad that local Thai

It's too bad that local Thai national scholars do not seem to be on the list. Whether this is just something overlooked or whether Thais themselves are caving in to the dogma is a question needing answering.
The 2007 CCA is a sharpened stick placed in the hands of children. Someone gets hurt and no one is mature enough to recognize why.

Don't forget that there was a

Don't forget that there was a big open letter signed by many Thais just a few weeks ago. More signatures than this.

I tend to think that there is a real need for an international statement of concern. After all, embassies have been weak on LM and AI is hopeless.

It also raises the issue internationally, and that has to be good.

We hope, pray and expect that

We hope, pray and expect that the new government will honour the people who were with them at the time of their campaign. We appeal at least to realese these prisoners on bail pending trail. Leon Joseph