Rights official worried over arrest of FB users over sharing rape claim
A NATIONAL rights commissioner yesterday criticised the arrest of 10 Facebook users who shared content regarding a rape claim posted on a controversial FB page, saying the move would certainly intimidate people from expressing different views.
Angkana Neelapaijit said that police should tolerate opinions that differ from their own, given the fact that the claim has not yet been resolved due to the absence of the complainer’s evidence, the completion of the investigation and a court’s ruling.
Her comments were in response to the arrests of 10 Thais for violating the Computer Crimes Act by sharing content from the CSI LA90210 FB page concerning a rape claim made by a 19-year-old Londoner.
“The arrests will definitely scare people into not expressing their opinions or views that are different from those of the police authority,” Angkana, a commissioner with the National Human Rights Commission, told The Nation.
“I cannot understand why sharing information is considered a crime. If they had shared hate speech, that would be considered a crime.”
The investigation of the rape claims has not been completed, police have not yet obtained the testimony from the British girl and the case has not yet gone before a Court.
Therefore, the truth of the case has not yet come out, Angkana said, adding that those who had been detained had merely shared information pertaining to the story. They wanted their readers to know another side of it, she said.
The woman claimed she was drugged, robbed and raped during her vacation on Koh Tao off Surat Thani province in June.
She later filed a police complaint on nearby Koh Pha-ngan. It still remains unclear why she did not file the complaint on Koh Tao.
She subsequently alleged that Koh Pha-ngan police had refused to document the rape claim, but accepted the one for robbery. Police, however, deny she had tried to file a rape complaint. The teenager then returned to London and told her mother she had been raped. The mother reportedly informed UK police and handed over clothes that she claimed contained the the attackers’ DNA.
Police at odds
When the complaint went public in British media, Thai police set up an investigation team to look into the complaint and concluded that the claimed rape had not occurred. However, the Facebook page insisted otherwise.
Of the three others wanted on the offence that are still at large, one was identified as Pramuk Anantasin, the administrator of the controversial page.
Earlier reports have said that Pramuk lives in the United States and oversees the page from there.
Pramuk told media veteran Suthichai Yoon in a FB Live session on Tuesday that he had no plans to surrender to police. He said that those who had been arrested could contact lawyer Winyat Chatmontri, secretary-general of the United Lawyers for Rights and Liberty, and he would assist them with their legal difficulties. Pramuk urged those detained to fight the allegation and not to confess, saying that sharing information from his page did not violate any laws.
Lawyer Winyat, meanwhile, said that he had been contacted by five to six of the suspects and was willing to provide legal assistance for all those who choose to plead not guilty.
“I don’t see that sharing news and information on Facebook is against the law. They shouldn’t have been arrested,” he said. “If we allow this, it will become a new norm that doing so is illegal when actually it constitutes freedom of expression.”