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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Thailand: Journalist charged over Facebook criticism of junta

A protest in May against curbs on the Thai media: now a columnist faces charges

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior writer for the local news outlet Khaosod English, told AFP he faces up to 14 years in prison.

A prominent Thai columnist who has chronicled the erosion of human rights under junta rule was charged with sedition on Tuesday over Facebook posts that criticised the regime.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a senior writer for the local news outlet Khaosod English, told AFP he faces up to 14 years in prison over two cases filed by police.

The first is linked to his Facebook posts from February 2016 that criticised a junta-drafted constitution.

The second case concerns Facebook posts from last month that criticised junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha's handling of floods and the trial of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra, whose elected government was toppled in a 2014 military coup.

"I have seen the content and I insist this an abuse of the sedition law," Pravit told AFP after meeting police to hear the charges.

"The law is being used to silence criticism on social media."

The writer also faces charges under the Computer Crime Act -- another tough law used by the junta to stamp out online dissent.

Since the coup Pravit has twice been detained by soldiers for "attitude adjustment" sessions.

But he has continued his criticism of the military regime, detailing the surge in prosecutions of government and monarchy critics.

Last month he was named winner of a international press freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The International Commission of Jurists, which sent a representative to accompany Pravit to the police station, slammed the charges as part of an "alarming regional trend of criminalising online speech".

Tensions are rising before the verdict in Yingluck's negligence trial on August 25.

The former premier may face up to a decade in jail if found guilty. Any harsh sentence could reignite conflict between her fervent supporters and the regime, which has suppressed all political activities for the past three years.

The junta has defended its clampdown as an attempt to heal bitter political rivalries which have fuelled a decade of unrest.

But critics say the junta is chiefly bent on crippling the political camp loyal to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled in a 2006 coup.

The siblings dominate national elections but are loathed by a military-allied elite, which accuses them of corruption and costly populist handouts.



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