Thai Wikivandal faces prison for adding Sinovac ‘salesman’ to top virologist’s page

A 2007 photo by ‘Kkamols’ from Yong Poovorawan’s Wikipedia entry.
A 2007 photo by ‘Kkamols’ from Yong Poovorawan’s Wikipedia entry.

A 24-year-old Bangkok man faces years in prison on libel charges filed yesterday for adding “salesman for Sinovac” to the Wikipedia page of a top Thai virologist.

Soradit Eiamsittipol was arrested at his home in the capital’s Bang Khun Tien district after editing the Wikipedia page of Yong Poovorawan, a virology expert at Chulalongkorn University who has fiercely defended Thailand’s reliance on the Chinese-made vaccine.

Yong’s information on Wikipedia on Tuesday briefly read, “salesman for Sinovac vaccine for the government of Prayuth Chan-o-cha.”

Images: Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau
Images: Cyber Crime Investigation Bureau

Police said Soradit confessed to making the changes. He has been charged with defamation, and police are investigating whether he can also be prosecuted under the Computer Crime Act, legislation enacted to prevent online crimes that critics say is abused to stifle dissent. 

Yong reportedly assigned one of his underlings to file the complaint. He had not responded to a message seeking comment as of publication time.

Defamation can be punished by a THB200,000 fine and two years in prison; cybercrime convictions can yield five years behind bars.

Head of the Center of Excellence in Clinical Virology at the Chulalongkorn’s Faculty of Medicine and an adviser to the national vaccination program, Yong has been criticized for enthusiastically promoting Sinovac despite concerns about its efficacy and low public trust. 

Just yesterday, he gave his blessing to plans to replace a second Sinovac dose with AstraZeneca, an untested solution that has drawn public concern.

Last month, Yong said Sinovac had the least side effects and could be administered to children over 3 after Beijing authorized emergency use in young children.

Health officials reported 9,317 new COVID-19 cases early Wednesday afternoon, nearly all of which were locally transmitted. Another 87 deaths were reported, the most in a single day since the pandemic began.

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