Military Summons Prachatai Reporter Over Lese Majeste Infographic

A sign outside the Bangkok newsroom of Prachatai. Photo: Courtesy Prachatai

BANGKOK — The editor of a pro-democracy news website was summoned by the junta over a recent infographic it deemed overly broad in describing the kingdom’s strict law against defaming the monarchy.

Thaweeporn Kummetha, editor of Prachatai English, said 10 officers from the military, police and other law enforcement agencies asked Prachatai to be more careful in how it presented information, particularly in regards to the law, which is known as lese majeste. They told her the graphic was too vague and might cause misunderstanding.

“The military officer insisted it was not an attitude adjustment but a talk for better understanding,” Thaweeporn said, adding she was not asked to sign any agreement.

Four soldiers arrived at her home Monday to summon her to appear. Thaweeporn declined to say where the meeting was held but said the president of the Thai Journalists Association was also present.

The infographic published Wednesday represented 14 actions that could be considered illegal under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which criminalizes anything damaging to the reputation of the Royal Family and is punishable by 15 years in prison for each offense.

The graphic identified the different penalties for activities, such as writing graffiti and sending SMS messages, which have resulted in convictions on the charge.

Its language was sparse, however, to be short and simple in an infographic format. The examples for each type of offense included links to relevant stories describing the details.

The meeting lasted about 90 minutes, she said. The 10 officers present were from the military, police, Ministry of Justice and the Department of Special Investigation. Thai Journalists Association chairman Wanchai Wongmeechai was present as a witness. Reached for comment, a representative from the association said Wanchai would not discuss the meeting.

Prachatai Editor Chuwat Rerksirisuk told Khaosod English their news organization would not change its editorial practices. Prachatai has been one of few media sources providing extensive coverage on the hypersensitive subject of lese majeste and its enforcement.

“They repeated that it was not a threat; it was just their duty,” Chuwat said. “We understand their intention and responsibility. They needed to do it. But their duty also affects us as a threat.”

Thaweeporn became the third journalist to be summoned by the military junta since September. Earlier this month political cartoonist Sakda Sae-Eiaw was summoned over a cartoon lampooning junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha's appearance at the United Nations. He was released after several hours.

On Sept. 14, a former reporter with The Nation, Pravit Rojanaphruk, was summoned and later placed in three-day detention at an undisclosed location to undergo what the junta described as “attitude adjustment.” Pravit resigned from his The Nation under pressure a day after he was released.

Following the 2014 coup d’etat, another Prachatai reporter, Tewarit Maneechai, was among activists and scholars summoned by the junta on June 3. He was detained for three days at a military camp in Bangkok.

Additional reporting by Teeranai Charuvastra

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