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PM responds to BBC Thai case by warning media of action ‘without exception’

Dec 07. 2016
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PRIME MINISTER Prayut Chan-o-cha yesterday warned all media outlets operating in Thailand that they would be prosecuted, without exception, if they were found to be violating Thai laws.

He was speaking in response to a report on the monarchy published last week by BBC Thai. The report had been translated from an original English-language report produced by BBC News Asia. 

Prayut said any foreign media outlet, with a branch in Thailand and with Thai employees, would be punished if it were found to be breaking Thai laws. He did not mention any outlet by name. 

“It doesn’t matter whether you are part of the media or not. If you break this country’s laws, you will be punished,” he said. “[Their action] may not be considered wrong in foreign countries, I don’t know. But it is unlawful in Thailand and there’s no exception.” 

The premier also called on the public to be aware of the Criminal Code’s Article 116 on sedition and the 2007 Computer Crime Act, which prohibits online content deemed seditious or one that damages the Kingdom’s authority. 

These two laws, coupled with the Criminal Code’s Article 112 or the lese majeste law, are being strongly enforced to block the distribution of online content that could be deemed critical of the sovereign state and the monarchy. 

“Be careful with what you do. Don’t infringe on the rights of others,” the premier warned. “I’m not threatening you. We’ve just got to help each other if we want peace in our country.” 

Deputy PM and Defence Minister General Prawit Wong-suwan also insisted that the authorities would proceed with taking action against wrongdoings without any exception. However, he would not elaborate on whether any action would be taken against BBC Thai. 

Meanwhile, DPA has reported that authorities are seeking to prosecute the local BBC team. 

“BBC Thai is the first [target] because it has an office in Thailand, and their content is in Thai language,” a junta spokesperson who asked not to be named told DPA.

“The next step is to issue a letter to the British embassy in Thailand as the [BBC] Thai branch belongs to the agency based in the UK,” the source added.

The Digital Economy and Society Ministry has blocked a link to the article on BBC’s Thai website on Tuesday and replaced it with a message saying “inappropriate content”. 

While Web pages to both translated and original reports have been made inaccessible from Thailand, Thai local media reported that some local police officers also paid visits to BBC Thai office at Maneeya Building on Ploenchit Road on Tuesday to find it closed.

However, Pol Maj-General Chayapon Chatchaidej, acting chief of the Special Branch Police Division4, denied the report. 

He said the Technology Crime Suppression Division and police from Lumpini Police Station would investigate BBC Thai’s website and consider summoning the site’s administrator, translator, editor as well as those involved in publishing the article. 

The article is deemed to have violated the lese majeste law. He said police would look into other websites that may be violating the law. 

The move came after a student activist was arrested in Khon Kaen province for sharing the BBC article and charged with violating Article 112 and the Computer Crime Act. He was later released on bail.

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