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The news report by the London-based Financial Times on September 1 that two Thai cyber dissident believed to be using the names "phraya Pichai" and "Ton Chan" have been quietly arrested under the new cyber crime law for defaming the monarchy institution was greeted by near absolute silence by the mainstream Thai media. Media reform campaigner Supinya Klangnarong has been pursuing the cases and submitted a petition letter to the prime minister last week urging the authority to explain the circumstances behind the arrest and deal with the case in a transparent and just manner. Supinya talks to The Nation's Pravit Rojanaphruk about the controversial issue and its repercussion on freedom of expression in Thailand.  Excerpts.

1) What's so special about the cases?

Special because the two persons were the first to be arrested under the new cyber crime law. We have warned about the law being misused to crackdown on political dissident instead of real computer crime [such as computer fraud] and now it has come true. The new ideological battle ground is shifting increasingly online with 12 million Thais having access to the internet. The government is becoming more sensitive and strict. This reminded us that new method of struggle is needed. The dissidents were treated like drug criminal or murderer which is not right. Also, the government also denied [about the arrest] and wanted to keep it quiet.

2) What has the Campaign for Popular Media Reform in which you are secretary general about the two arrest?

Since the FT and prachatai on-line newspaper reported the incident we tried to get the news out to the wider public and called for the government to be responsible in dealing with the two. But the media in general has not reported it. We're also looking at affording the two human rights legal representations and we may have to hold a symposium to publicise the matter further.

3) Did you talk with any or both of the detainees who have since been granted bail?

I talked to the lady (Ton Chan) after she was recently bailed but not the male (Phraya Pichai) suspect. They are in difficult position and were apparently instructed by the authority not to talk with anyone. [Ton Chan] appeared to still be in shock. She told me she didn't know such law exist. I was told that people may have different political belief but they were treated like war criminal. She told me something like there's no real freedom in cyber space

4) You went to the Government House last week to submit a petition letter but why no news reporter except cover the incident and reported about it?

It's rather strange because in my past work at least some news photographers are dispatched to take photos and reporters would at least drop by. Could it be that there were many news items on that day? Or is it a sensitive issue so they avoided it.

5) What does the incident say about the current situation of freedom of expression in Thailand?

We're still wondering why the charges against the two are rather murky. Interpreting the law in such a encompassing manner could only lead to a curb on freedom of political expression. This issue will definitely be of interest to foreign countries even if Thai media pays no attention to it. There will be more questions raised at international forum. Whether we agree or disagree with the two's views, the issue is a challenging to all of us. We have come too far in term of guaranteeing rights and liberty to retreat. Right now we're confronted with a ceiling that we do not know what to do about it, however. Millions are connected online and at the end they can't simply arrest all of them. The [quiet] arrest is a frightful incident as the law is not ! clearly written. I would like to leave a question to Thai society as to whether it's time to talk about [the monarchy]issue openly and respect others' right to express differring opinion. There are libel and criminal law to deal [with defamation] already. The society is now living in a climate of fear and paranoia. How then can the society mature and be democratic? The government tried to block those expression by putting people behind bars. But shall people live with this fear every day?

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