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The editor of a Chiang Mai lifestyle magazine is facing criminal charges for sharing on Facebook a photo of an oil painting that depicted Chiang Mai's three iconic statues of ancient kings wearing face masks in order to promote an anti-air pollution rally.
Pim Kemasingki, a Thai-British national who edits the Chiang Mai Citylife magazine, said she found out she was facing charges from the media reports on Friday. She said she has not been contacted personally and does not know which specific charges she is facing.
Prawin Chamniprasart, the Chiang Mai governor, told Reuters on Sunday that he believed Pim violated the Computer Crime Act, which criminalises the import of content to a computer system that is likely to cause a public panic. Although the photos involve the ancient kings, he said he is not seeking a l?se majest? charge.
The problematic oil painting depicts the three iconic statues of ancient kings in Chiang Mai’s central plaza wearing face masks.
According to iLaw, authorities have reportedly explained that the photo could tarnish the image of Chiang Mai and affect the city’s booming tourism industry., threatening the “economic security” of Chiang Mai. “This is an attempt to make up an offence under Article 14 (2),” stated iLaw.
Article 14 (2) criminalises the import of any information onto a computer system that could threaten the maintenance of national security, public safety, or national economic security, or that might cause public panic.
However, iLaw explains that the kind of information that could be prosecuted under Article 14 (2) must be false information. Because the image is a painting and not a real photograph, it is hard to say how it might be deemed a violation of Article 14 (2).
The Computer Crime Act has been widely denounced by the international community for threatening freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
In a letter to police, Prawin called the image “disrespectful.”
Pim said the image in dispute was an oil painting done by a student as a project to complete their international baccalaureate diploma.
The picture, which showed three statues of historic kings wearing face masks, was shared on the Citylife Chiang Mai Facebook page to publicise the magazine’s “Right to Breathe” anti-air pollution rally that was supposed to be held on Friday. It was cancelled at the request of the governor.
Pim said her intention for the rally was to ask the government to adopt international standards for identifying dangerous pollutants and to monitor and publish information on air quality. She said that the possible charges against her took her by surprise.
“I really don't understand. I really really don’t,” she said. “Some people might have been offended by the image, and I’m really really sorry if that’s the case. Maybe I just wasn’t sensitive enough. I don’t know. I had no intention of upsetting anyone. All I was concerned about is the health of the people of Chiang Mai.”
She told Prachatai that she has never had any trouble with the law before.
“We’re just a small little publication,” she said of Citylife Chiang Mai, an English-language lifestyle magazine that reaches the expat, international and local community. “I’m not some agent, I’m not interested in stirring anything up. I’m just concerned with the health of my citizens.”
Thailand has recently faced some of its highest levels of harmful air pollution in decades, particularly in Chiang Mai.
Although the rally on Friday was cancelled, Citylife Chiang Mai reported that the Governor and Vice Governor held a video conference on Tuesday with 25 chief district officers and other officials to discuss their efforts to combat pollution.
“We all love Chiang Mai. There’s a lot of people trying to solve this pollution issue in every sector. I just hope they continue the good work,” Pim said. “I just made this misstep.”
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