Activist sentenced to prison for sedition

Activist Katanyu Muenkhamruang has been sentenced to 2 years in prison on a sedition charge for Facebook posts calling for people to go to protests in August 2021. She was later released on bail to file for appeal.

Katanyu Muenkhamruang (Photo from iLaw)

Katanyu, a member of the activist group Thalufah, was charged with sedition and violation of the Computer Crimes Act over two posts on the group’s Facebook page calling for people to join the 11 and 13 August 2021 protests.

Nangnoi Assawakittikorn, a former member of the royalist group Thailand Help Center for Cyberbullying Victims, filed a complaint against Kantanyu, alleging that she was running the Facebook page.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) said that Katanyu and her lawyer reported to the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) on 12 January 2022, after learning that an arrest warrant had been issued for her in November 2021.

TLHR noted that a police officer called Katanyu twice, claiming that the TCSD had an arrest warrant for her. On 27 September 2022, she went to the TCSD to check whether there was a warrant but officers were unable to tell her whether it was a warrant or a summons. She asked for them to record that she reported to the police and did not intend to run, but the officers refused.

Katanyu’s defence was that she was not running the Facebook page and therefore was not responsible for the posts. According to TLHR, photos of Katanyu at the protest which were submitted by the prosecution as evidence were unclear.  They also note that the two posts did not incite people to commit violence or violate the law, a point noted by prosecution witnesses in their testimony as well.  Although violent clashed took place during the day, these occurred after the protest and at a different location.

A Metropolitan police officer testified that a person matching Katanyu’s description was live-streaming during the 13 August 2021 protest. During cross-examination, the officer acknowledged that a Facebook page can be run by several people and said that he was unaware of who runs the Thalufah Facebook page.

Another officer testified that he sent a link to a news article to the Thalufah Facebook page to check who was administering it and found two users. Using the IP addresses, the police then checked with an internet service provider for the identity of the users.  Katanyu was reportedly not among the users identified. The officer admitted that he did not know who actually ran the Facebook page, denying that his action counts as phishing.

Testifying for the defence, iLaw’s Waranyuta Yan-in said that, to check a user’s identity with an IP address, a request must be made with an internet service provider to obtain the user’s address. The police must then obtain a search warrant for the electronic device to obtain more information. She argued that in this instance, police actions did indeed amounted to phishing since they did not ask for cooperation from the users.

TLHR reported on Wednesday (22 November) that the Criminal Court found Katanyu guilty of sedition and violation of the Computer Crimes Act and sentenced her to 2 years in prison. It ruled that, since there is evidence showing that she was at the protest and was live-streaming, she must have known of the posts, and so was guilty even though the prosecution could not prove that she made the posts.

Katanyu was later granted bail using an additional security of 75,000-baht.

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