Human Rights: Yingluck’s ICT Ministry claims Facebook agreed to terminate 60,000 lese majeste accounts

  • by Tammy, Thai Intel’s humanity journalist

The Nation Group, a staunch Thai royalist media with several editors that wants to turn Thailand back to “Absolute Monarchy” system, just reported that the Yingluck’s ICT Ministry, just told reporters that Facebook, has agreed to terminate 60,000 accounts with contents Thailand deems offensive to Thai Royalism.

Facebook, is an American company-where an American, Joe Gordon, just receives a jail sen tense of 5 years computed to about 3 years, for internet activity conducted in the USA, but he was arrested in Thailand where he came to seek medical services.

Hillary, the USA State Department Secretary, is making a fresh push for “Freedom of Expression.” Thailand, under the former prime minister, Abhisit, saw Freedom House, revising Thailand’s freedom rating from “Semi-Free” to “Not Free.”

According to sources, the USA have issued a “General Warning” on Thai lese majeste conditions to Americans traveling to Thailand.

Several local Thai oriented travel blogs have been running reports to warn travelers that they should refrain from any comment on Thailand’s royalism and to go back and erase all their internet foot-print as related to Thai royalism, if they plan to visit Thailand in the future.

Yingluck’s ICT Ministry, a few days ago, issued a warning that anyone hitting the “Like” button on Facebook on any content offensive to Thai royalism, is breaking Thai laws.

The following is from AFP and AP:

Thai court jails U.S. citizen for royal insult

By Agence France-Presse

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A court in Thailand on Thursday jailed a Thai-born American for two-and-a-half years for defaming the monarchy — a sentence that the United States criticised as “severe”.

The conviction of Joe Wichai Commart Gordon — who appeared in court in shackles — is the latest in a series of cases under the kingdom’s strict lese majeste laws, which rights campaigners say are used to stifle free speech.

The Criminal Court sentenced Gordon to five years in prison, but halved the term as the car salesman from Colorado pleaded guilty to publishing online a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej that he translated into Thai.

“Joe decided not to appeal this case but will ask for a royal pardon,” his lawyer Arnon Nampa told reporters in Bangkok.

“In this case the court gave the lightest jail term for a lese majeste case. He’s been in prison six months already. The worst case is two more years in jail but I hope that he’ll receive a royal pardon.”

Gordon, 55, was arrested in May on a visit to the kingdom and accused of posting the material deemed offensive while living in the United States.

Under Thailand’s lese majeste legislation, anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count.

A US official said Gordon should not have been jailed at all.

“We consider the sentence severe because he was given the sentence for his right of expression,” US Consul General Elizabeth Pratt told reporters.

“We continue to respect the Thai monarchy but we also support the right of expression which is internationally recognised as a human right.”

Washington, which counts Thailand as one of its oldest allies, on Tuesday voiced alarm over a series of court cases in the kingdom over speech deemed to be offensive to the monarchy.

Critics say that Thailand has increased use of its lese majeste legislation as a way to suppress freedom of expression, particularly under the last government, which was supported by the Bangkok-based elite.

Observers say the new administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who took power in August, has yet to improve the situation.

In a conviction that alarmed activists, 61-year-old Ampon Tangnoppakul was jailed last month for 20 years on four counts of sending messages to the private secretary of the then prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in May 2010.

The European Union said it was “deeply concerned” about that sentence.

A group of activists opposed to the legislation plan a “fearlessness walk” in Bangkok on Saturday in support of Ampon and other political prisoners.

Despite the protests, the Thai government said Wednesday it had set up a committee to clamp down on websites considered insulting to the monarchy.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung said he would chair the first meeting of the group this week, including representatives from the police, the interior ministry and other related agencies.

Thailand’s frail king, who turned 84 on Monday, has reigned for 65 years but has been in hospital since September 2009.

Any discussion of the royal family is extremely sensitive in the politically turbulent nation, where the palace has also been silent over the organisation of the king’s succession.

American sentenced to prison for Thai royal insult

By ALISA TANG and VEE INTARAKRATUG | AP – 39 mins ago

BANGKOK (AP) — A court in Thailand sentenced a U.S. citizen to two and a half years in prison Thursday for defaming the country’s royal family by translating excerpts of a locally banned biography of the king and posting them online.

The 55-year-old Thai-born American, Joe Gordon, stood calmly with his ankles shackled in an orange prison uniform as the sentence was read out at a Bangkok criminal court.

Judge Tawan Rodcharoen said the punishment initially was set at five years behind bars, but he reduced it because Gordon pleaded guilty in October.

Gordon posted links the to banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej several years ago while living in the U.S. state of Colorado, and the case has raised questions about the applicability of Thai law to acts committed by foreigners outside Thailand.

Speaking after the verdict, Gordon said: “I am an American citizen, and what happened was in America.”

He also said he had no expectation of being let off easy. “This is just the system in Thailand,” he said. Speaking later in Thai, he added: “In Thailand, they put people in prison even if they don’t have proof.”

Gordon was detained in late May during a visit to Thailand, where he had returned for medical treatment. After being repeatedly denied bail, he pleaded guilty in October in hopes of obtaining a lenient sentence.

Thailand’s lese majeste laws are the harshest in the world. They mandate that people found guilty of defaming the monarchy — including the king, the queen and the heir to the throne — face three to 15 years behind bars. The nation’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act also contains provisions that have enabled prosecutors to increase lese majeste sentences.

The country has come under increasing pressure both at home and abroad to amend the laws, which critics say are too harsh and have often been used for political harassment.

The U.S. Embassy’s consul general, Elizabth Pratt, told reporters after the ruling that Washington considered the punishment “severe because he has been sentenced for his right to freedom of expression.”

Many had hoped that the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, which has some prominent supporters who have been accused of lese majeste, would reform the laws. The issue remains highly sensitive, however, and Yingluck’s government has been as aggressive in pursing the cases as its predecessors.

Last weekend, New York-based Human Rights Watch urged authorities to amend the laws, saying the penalties being meted out were “shocking.”

The last person sentenced for lese majeste in Thailand was 61-year-old Amphon Tangnoppakul. He was convicted of sending four text messages to a secretary of former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and sentenced last month to 20 years in jail.

Last month, Information Minister Anudith Nakornthap said Facebook users who “share” or “like” content that insults the Thai monarchy are committing a crime. Anudith said Thai authorities have asked Facebook to remove 86,000 pages between August and November because of alleged lese majeste content.

Gordon, a former car salesman, is accused of having translated excerpts from the unauthorized biography “The King Never Smiles,” published by Yale University Press, into the Thai language and publishing them in a blog. He also provided links to the translation to other two Web forums, prosecutors say.

In the banned book, author Paul M. Handley retraces the king’s life, alleging that he has been a major stumbling block to the progress of democracy in Thailand as he consolidated royal power over his long reign.

Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, is profoundly revered in Thailand and is widely seen as a stabilizing force. He was feted Monday on his 84th birthday, during which he called on his countrymen to unite in response to the worst floods in more than half a century.

The king is frail and has stayed at a Bangkok hospital for more than two years.

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