I’ve already posted about a few of the ongoing lesse majeste cases in Thailand. What makes Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s case worth mentioning is that there’s some hope she might win. The judge said several times that this case was “nothing” or “no big deal,” strongly implying that he saw no grounds for the prosecution. I’m not that familiar with how judges interact with lawyers and defendants in the courtroom, but those seem like pretty informal comments. New Mandala posted more earlier today.
Category Archives: Thailand
I’ve mentioned Thailand’s lesse majesty prosecutions. On it’s face, it’s not clear how Thai legal activists can respond to what many see as out-of-control prosecutions against the Thai elite’s enemies. That’s why I found it interesting to see a New Mandala blog post about a legal response to lesse majeste – but in a U.S. court! The World Organization for Human Rights has brought a suit against web hosting firm Netfirms, Inc., for releasing the identity of an anonymous poster on a Thai prodemocracy website. According to the complaint, the poster, Anthony Chai, was:
subsequently detained at the Bangkok airport, taken to the Department of Special Investigations, and interrogated about his postings on the website. After finally being released from police custody in Bangkok and returning home to California, Mr. Chai was then interrogated by Thai officials over the course of two days on U.S. soil at a hotel in Hollywood, California. Mr. Chai was later informed by Thai officials that if he returns to Thailand, he will be arrested and charged with violating lese majesté laws.
Unfortunately, I’m not caught up with U.S. jurisprudence on the Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and other human rights law, so I won’t hazard a guess as to the outcome. Still, I’ll make a few observations. First, unlike in many ATCA cases, the company did clearly take an action that had an impact on the plaintiff. There will probably be no debate over whether the company knew or should have known that Thailand was prosecuting lesse majeste.
Over the next few weeks and months I’ll try to follow the case and also get a better sense of U.S. law in this area. I know other U.S. internet firms have been sued on similar legal grounds (such as Yahoo releasing data to the Chinese government about political dissidents). In the meantime, for those interested in learning more, you can download the full complaint here.
As readers might have heard, Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and the Puea Thai party won an overwhelming victory in Thailand’s July 3 elections. While military leaders ruled out a coup, the defeated Democrat Party is asking the Election Commission to file charges against Puea Thai. In particular, the Democrats want the Constitutional Court to dissolve Puea Thai because of Thaksin’s involvement in the campaign and allegations of “corruption.” According to the news I’ve seen thus far, this “corruption” largely amounts to Puea Thai candidates handing free noodles during campaign events. So far, the EC hasn’t actually filed a case against Puea Thai yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
Thus far, history looks set to repeat itself. Of course, back in 2008, the Constitutional Court was instrumental in the PPP’s downfall. Last year, the Court refused to dissolve the Democrat Party on similar charges. There’s no reason to think the justices have changed their basic political outlook since the 2008 cases; I haven’t heard of any major changes in court personnel, nor have Puea Thai allies been in a position to appoint new justices. However, if the Court dissolves Puea Thai now, it risks cementing a reputation for partisanship. I’ll definitely follow this case to see how it develops and if it actually goes to trial.
The New Mandala blog recently posted a book review of a very interesting new book, Tort, Custom, and Karma by David Engel and Jaruwan Engel. I haven’t read the book yet, but the basic argument seems to be that in rural Thailand the state legal system plays a minimal role in resolving personal injury disputes. They suspect that globalization and the process of atomization have distanced the state from the individual.