Sunday, October 25, 2020

Amnesty sees iron hand in man’s arrest over Covid comment

Mar 25. 2020
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By The Nation

Amnesty International Thailand has characterised the arrest of a Phuket man arriving in Bangkok on his return from Spain and commenting on Facebook about a “lack” of Covid-19 screening at Suvarnabhumi Airport “an attempt to muzzle freedom of expression”.

Piyanut Kotsan, the group’s director, said the detention of and legal action taken against those who criticise the government peacefully signifies an attempt to muzzle freedom of expression in the run up to the enforcement of the emergency decree”. 

“The Computer Crime Act with its vague content could be subject to broad interpretation and has often been used as a tool to stymie dissenters,” he said.

“Thailand should drop immediately and unconditionally the charges and ensure that all restrictions on human rights are enforced accordingly to the principle of necessity and proportionality.

“Thailand must ensure that under the state of emergency [in effect from March 26-April 30], no measures imposed to stem the Covid-19 outbreak will be used as a tool to arbitrarily and discriminatorily restrict rights and freedoms, particularly the right to freedom of expression of the dissenters.”

Piyanut quoted the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights as reporting that police arrested Danai Ussama, 42, on Monday (March 23) at an art gallery in Phuket after stating online that he encountered no Covid-19 screening at the Immigration checkpoints at Suvarnabhumi on his return from Spain.

Danai, he said, was taken to the Technology Crime Suppression Division and charged with “importing to a computer system false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage the country’s security or cause public panic”, in violation of the Computer Crimes Act. He was released on Bt100,000 bail the next day.

In announcing that the state of emergency would be imposed this week, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha warned people about spreading “fake news” on social media and threatened legal action, Piyanut noted. 

“The government has yet to explain in detail the specific measures to be imposed, which may lead to disproportionate and unnecessary restrictions on human rights,” he said.

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