Newspaper columnist accused of criminal defamation for allegedly mocking monk

A Buddhist monk from a well-known temple has filed defamation charges against a newspaper columnist for mocking him on social media over his hair-style.

According to ASTV Manager, Venerable Aphichat Promjan, the chief lecturer monk of Benjamabophit Temple, a Bangkok temple under royal patronage, on Tuesday, 4 August 2015, filed a complaint at Dusit Police Station concerning offences under the 2007 Computer Crime Act against Panthip Teeraneat, a columnist of Matichon Newspaper.  

The monk accused Panthip of defaming him for posting a Facebook message saying that the he has a skin-head hairstyle when he posted a picture of him and the other monk while they were travelling to Benjamabophit Temple in a vehicle belonging to the Thai Royal Household on 23 July 2015.

Before the complaint was filed, Surapot Thaweesak, a religious scholar, posted a message on his Facebook page on Monday that read “one thing that I see is that while Buddhist monks have been promoted as virtuous role models for people in Thai society, in fact, very few monks can express the virtue of seeing other human beings as equal to them.”

Venerable Aphichat Promjan files criminal defamation charge against Panthip, a Matichon columnist, at Dusit Police Station in Bangkok on 4 August 2015 (picture from Venerable Aphichat Promjan's Facebook page)

He pointed out that monks are public figures and should be able to take criticism.

The religious scholar added that defamation should not be considered as a criminal offense, but as an offense under civil law instead.

“Defamation laws should be in the civil code not the criminal code. The offences under Computer Crime Act especially are too severe,” wrote Surapot.

Article 14 of the Computer Crime Code states that any person who commits any of the following offences shall be subject to imprisonment for not more than five years or a fine of not more than one hundred thousand baht or both: (1) an act that involves importing into a computer system forged computer data, either in whole or in part, or false computer data, in a manner that is likely to cause damage to that third party or the public; (2) an act that involves importing into a computer system false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage national security or cause a public panic; (3) an act that involves importing into a computer system any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom's security under the Criminal Code; (4) and act that involves importing into a computer system any computer data of a pornographic nature that is publicly accessible; (5) an act that involves the dissemination or forwarding of computer data already known to be computer data under (1) (2) (3) or (4).


*Prachatai apologizes for the earlier mistakes in reporting this news story


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