Joint Statement : Review and Drop Charges against Page Administrator and Twelve other Individuals for Posting Alleged Koh Tao Tourist Sexual Assault
Pursuant to the media coverage that arrest warrants from Samui Provincial Court, No. 65-77/2561, dated 3rd September 2018, have been issued for the CSI LA Facebook page administrator and other people, totally, twelve individuals, who shared information regarding Samui sexual assault allegation, for dishonesty or deceitfully bringing into a computer system computer data which is distorted or forged, either in whole or in part, or computer data which is false, in such a manner likely to cause damage to the maintenance of national security. The officials have arrested eleven people in the arrest warrants. They could be handed over the inquiry official at Koh Samui, within 5th September 2018.
The arrest warrants were issued after the CSI LA Facebook page posted a message on 25th August 2018, about a 19-year-old British female tourist claimed that she was raped at Sairee Beach, Koh Tao Sub-district, Koh Phangan District, Surat Thani Province, on the night of 26th June 2018.
Subsequently, on 28th August 2018, police officers surveyed the alleged location. Officials said the information has impacted the country’s tourism images. They also stated they will trigger a litigation against “Samui Times” and “CSI LA” web pages, that spread the news. On 31 August 2018, there was news that the police decided to end an investigation into the rape allegation, because of lack forensic evidence and affidavits that indicated drugged rape, despite the alleged victim has not been introduced to a police inquiry. Finally, the police make a motion for the court to issue the arrest warrants to twelve people as mentioned above.
Government agencies or state officials has the duty to protect people’s human rights without discrimination. Agencies and officials are also subject to scrutiny from the people. Pressing a charge through the police or prosecuting anyone for scrutinizing officials or government agencies’ performance, deliberately to end the investigation or to curb public dissemination on factual information on the alleged crime, while the authority knows that the use of online media is a genuine exercise of the people’s lawful and legitimate rights and that eventually the prosecutor will drop the charge or the court will dismiss the case, is a Strategic Litigation Against People Participation (SLAPP) The action should be considered unauthentic exercise of the right to access justice, or coming to the equity with “unclean hands.”
Making people criminal defendants, by an application for the court issued arrest warrants, requires a strict investigation into the merit of the circumstances, owing to the fact that the process is critical. Also, the officials that made an arbitrary and baseless claim for national security will undoubtedly corrupt the credibility of the authority. Moreover, the judiciary has an obligation to duly and cautiously review the applications for arrest warrants, ensuring that there should be a thorough examination if the fact and the circumstances of the information dissemination will undermine national security, given the 2007 Computer Crimes Act was heavily criticized for being used as a tool to control and block freedom of expression. The easy issuance of an arrest warrant by the judiciary against the people using the online media to express opinions or sharing the content will inevitably result in the people and the public loss of trust and confidence to state agencies, the judicial, and independent organizations. In addition, the police’s initiative to conduct the criminal justice process using the Computer Crimes Act for defamation against the people may be perceived as using criminal justice systems to gag the freedom of expression, which should not happen in a democratic society.
In this case, the undersigned human rights organizations considered that the Royal Thai Police Headquarters’ Commander in Chief has a vital role to supervise his subordinates’ operation. The police officials must focus on the people’s role to assist the authorities in fact-finding and reporting useful information as evidence to bring perpetrators to justice. Ultimately, the practice will collectively promote social justice and sustainable public security.
For these reasons above, the undersigned human rights organizations, have the following recommendations.
- Review and drop the prosecution against the twelve individuals, CSI LA page administrator, people who shared the information, and other people who previously criticized government agencies and officials. The use of SLAPP to gag public opinion have negative impacts on the state’s image, moreover, it demonstrates that transparency and check and balance are not possible. SLAPP against the people is incoherence with a democratic approach in the society, that should tolerate free expression, unconstitutional under the Thai Constitution, and violates international obligations.
- The police officials and the inquiry officials must treat the accused/the arrestees in conformity with the rights under the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code, in particular, the officials must respect the principle of the presumption of innocence, that the accused must not be brought to a press conference, the right to have legal representatives present with them in an inquiry, and the right to provisional release, either with or without collateral.
- In the long term, the 2007 Computer Crime Act should be reviewed and revised, both the enforcement and legal provision. The amendment should pay particular attention to Section 14, which is often used as a tool to censor public opinion.
With respect to human dignity and people’s freedom and liberties.
Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA)
Cross-Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
Community Resources Center Foundation (CRC)
Union for Civil Liberties (UCL)