Thai web editor denies online royal insult charges
BANGKOK — A prominent Thai website editor facing up to 20 years in jail appeared in court Wednesday to defend herself against charges relating to remarks about the monarchy posted by other people on her website.
Chiranuch Premchaiporn, the editor of the popular Prachatai news website, denied allegations that she did not remove ten online posts perceived as critical to the monarchy quickly enough in 2008.
She told the Bangkok Criminal Court that she “immediately” blocked any comments flagged as “improper” by the Information and Communication Technology ministry.
Chiranuch described a sharp increase in online activity in the wake of a 2006 military coup that sparked five years of political turmoil in Thailand.
“Various comments were posted on our web board which reflected the political situation at that time. They were intensely political and there were stronger opinions which opposed the coup,” she said.
She said up to 30,000 users a day visited the Prachatai web forum between 2007 and 2008, more than ten times previous levels.
Chiranuch, who faces a second trial under Thailand’s controversial royal insult and computer laws, said the site voluntarily removed about three percent of all posts during this time.
The Internet forum was closed in July 2010 amid concerns over a crackdown on commentators following deadly anti-government “Red Shirt” street protests in Bangkok.
The monarchy is a highly sensitive topic in politically turbulent Thailand. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch and revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September 2009.
Thailand has drawn flak from rights groups for suppressing freedom of speech using the Computer Crimes Act and lese majeste legislation, which bans criticism of the king, queen, heir or regent.