Court acquits Watana over Facebook posts about junta


THE SOUTHERN Bangkok Criminal Court yesterday acquitted key Pheu Thai Party politician Watana Muangsook, who had been accused of violating the Computer Crime Act for allegedly disseminating false information about the junta and Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha.

It was alleged that Watana violated the act by disseminating information concerning the junta not returning power to people and for skirting scrutiny of its ruling power.
In April, prosecutors filed the case against the 58-year-old politician, accusing him of posting false information on his Facebook page that caused damage to others in violation of the Computer Crimes Act’s Article 14. 
It was one of legal cases challenging Watana, a staunch critic of the junta who was invited to attend the junta’s “attitude adjustment” programme several times. 
The complaint stated that during March 1-2, Watana posted comments on his Facebook page in which he accused Prayut, Prayut’s deputy and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan and the National Council for Peace and Order of not returning power to people and of manipulating laws to avoid facing investigations. 
The statement caused damage to the accused parties, the prosecution said, when in fact the NCPO had announced a “road map” to a return to democracy and had prepared the referendum for the charter draft as well as a general election. Investigations are also unavoidable for any wrongdoers, it said. 
But in acquitting Watana, the court ruled that what he had expressed on his Facebook page was honest opinions and he did not disseminate false information, according to his legal adviser Narinpong Jinapak, who accompanied the politician during the court hearing. 
Other Pheu Thai figures, such as Bhokin Bhalakula and Chaturon Chaisang, had testified before the court that it was factual that the NCPO still maintained power at the time Watana posted the remarks on Facebook, Narinpong said. 
Watana’s lawyer said prosecutors had 30 days to decide whether to appeal against the case.