Published on September 7, 2007
A 37-year old man detained for two weeks at Bangkok Remand Prison on charges under the new Computer Crime Act was released on bail yesterday, a source said.
The source confirmed that the man was the webmaster for www.propaganda.forumotion.com, which mainly discusses the monarchy. The webmaster, widely known in the cyber community as Phraya Phichai, was quietly arrested two weeks ago and public access to his website has been denied since then.
Phraya Phichai, a pseudonym, became the first victim of the new Computer Crime Act, which went into effect on July 18.
Though he was arrested on August 24 by Crime Suppression police, he was first seen by his family on Wednesday. During his two weeks in custody, Phraya Phichai never consulted with a lawyer, the source said.
According to the source, Phraya Phichai was charged under Article 14 (1) and (2), which prescribes punishment of a maximum five years imprisonment or a Bt100,000 fine for posting false content on the Internet to hurt others and public security.
It was the first time that police exercised their power under the new law and the story was first reported by the Financial Times weekend edition.
Quoting a senior Thai official, the London-based paper said authorities have used the law to arrest two Thais for "what were deemed particularly offensive comments about the monarchy on Internet chatrooms".
Throughout the past two weeks, Netizens have been worrying about the arrest and disappearance of Phraya Phichai. They have sought an explanation from the Thai government about the Financial Times' report.
Assuming that Phraya Phichai was one of the two victims cited in the report, a Net surfer has started a weblog called Free Phichai, criticising the arrest and demanding the release of the webmaster.
On Tuesday, Fah Diew Kan (Same Sky) Publishing house, the publisher of a radical political magazine under the same name, issued a statement demanding that all agencies related to the issue, particularly the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry and police, explain all facts related to the Financial Times' report.
"If someone was arrested, the government and all agencies concerned with the issue must respect that person's human rights and entitlement to justice," said the statement.
The Computer Crime Act, proposed by the ICT Ministry, has been mired in controversy since it was drafted due to the excessive power of police, who are allowed to seize computers of people suspected of disseminating "insulting or pornographic" content.
The law raised concerns among both local and international human rights organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, which said it might result in an increasingly restrictive policy towards free expression online.