Thai activist accused of cybercrimes for posting about foreign monarchies: lawyer

Attorney Winyat Chatmontree and activist Karn Pongprapapan on Monday night at a police station. Photo: Winyat Chatmontree / FB
Attorney Winyat Chatmontree and activist Karn Pongprapapan on Monday night at a police station. Photo: Winyat Chatmontree / FB

A pro-democracy activist was arrested and charged Monday with violating the Computer Crime Act for posts he made online about monarchies in other nations, according to his lawyer.

Student-activist Karn Pongprapapan was arrested by police at about 8pm and taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division for detention. He was charged with violating the Computer Crime Act, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Though the specifics of Karn’s arrest are yet unclear, he had posted last week about the royal histories of other nations. A vocal commentator on the country’s politics, he regularly posts news and his opinions on his own Facebook account, which has been deactivated since Monday.

Sweeping Censorship: New Computer crime laws would give government control of internet 

Winyat Chatmontree, an attorney representing Karn, said that Karn does not believe he violated the law.

His arrest comes a few weeks after the hashtag #BanMajor trended after an employee of theater chain giant Major Cineplex reportedly asked a member of the audience to leave a cinema for not standing during the royal anthem. The hashtag climbed to the top of Thai Twitter late last month. 

A few days after #BanMajor peaked, another hashtag followed — #RoyalProcession. It occurred after a royal motorcade blocked traffic and an ambulance, frustrating commuters during rush hour. 

The social media trend resulted in the Digital Economy Minister Puttipong Punnakanta on Oct. 5 to speak out that he will take serious actions against those who insult the Thai monarchy. 

Karn will be taken to jail at the Criminal Court at 11am today, according to Winyat.

Karn is a graduate student in the College of Innovation at Thammasat University. He has been charged at least twice with alleged crimes related to his political protests against the former military junta. He came to the fore early last year with the Democracy Restoration Group, a visible and animated figure leading rallies and marches calling for elections. In April 2018, he was charged at 24 for violating the public assembly act.

In a Tuesday morning statement, the Tech Crime Suppression Division said it had been asked by Digital Economy Minister Puttipong Punnakanta to prosecute “ill-intentioned people who have latched onto inappropriate online conversations.” It did not mention Karn or his case specifically.

Update: This story has been updated with a statement from the Tech Crime Suppression Division.

Related:

Thai netizens say no to restrictive Computer Crime Act 

Sweeping Censorship: New Computer crime laws would give government control of internet 

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