A 22-year-old Twitter user has been found guilty of violating the Computer Crimes Act over 8 tweets about the monarchy and sentenced to 4 years in prison, suspended for 3 years, during which time he is prohibited from socializing with anyone who may lead him to repeat his offense.
Niranam at the Pattaya Provincial Court on 4 June 2020
“Niranam,” (pseudonym), now 22, was arrested in February 2020 and charged with “entering into a computer system, computer data which is an offence related to national security of the Kingdom of Thailand or related to terrorism under the Criminal Code” under Section 14 Clause 3 of the 2017 Computer Crimes Act for a tweet about King Vajiralongkorn.
Niranam’s family said that he was taken by 10 plainclothes and uniformed police officers at around 10:30 am on 19 February 2020. The officers confiscated 2 mobile phones and took Niranam and his parents to Pattaya Police Station, but they did not have an arrest warrant.
Niranam’s family posted bail with a 100,000-baht security, but the Pattaya Provincial Court denied their request on the grounds that he had committed a serious offence and might try to flee. His family and lawyer posted bail for him again, but was again denied. They then filed a complaint with the Court of Appeal Region 2, and Niranam was granted bail, as the Court of Appeal said that charges under the Computer Crimes Act only carry a prison sentence of less than 5 years or a fine of less than 100,000 baht, therefore it was not a major crime, and that he is not likely to flee –directly contradicting the verdict of the Pattaya Provincial Court.
His arrest and detention sparked an online campaign calling for his release. The hashtags #Saveนิรนาม and #Freeนิรนาม trended on Twitter while he was detained. A Facebook page ‘Nai Nam Khwam Sa-ngop Riaproi’ (In the Name of Peace and Order) raised 1.5 million baht online for his bail, which was set at 200,000 baht. The page administrator said that the remaining 1,472,695.16 baht has been spent on Niranam’s legal expenses.
In June 2020, he was charged again with 7 more counts under the Computer Crimes Act over 7 tweets about King Bhumibol and King Vajiralongkorn, the death of King Ananda Mahidol, the October 1976 massacre and the 2006 coup d’état.
On Wednesday (8 March), the Pattaya Provincial Court found Niranam guilty of all 8 counts under the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced him to a total of 8 years in prison and a fine of 160,000 baht. Because he confessed during witness examination, the court reduced his sentence to 4 years in prison and a fine of 80,000 baht.
It also suspended his prison sentence for 3 years, during which he must report to a probation officer 4 times per year for 2 years, perform 36 hours of community service, and must not socialize with anyone who can lead him to repeat his offence.