Connect with us

Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Human Rights Watch blasts the arrest of Phuket artist over online comments



PHOTO: Coconuts

A local artist and art gallery owner in Phuket, Danai Ussama, better known as “Mr Zen”, was arrested at his home on the island this week, on the day before Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha announced a state of emergency would soon go into effect (which happened on Thursday, March 26).

The 42 year old street artist was arrested Monday afternoon and charged with committing a computer crime. Despite being under self-quarantine, officers flew Danai to Bangkok, where he was charged with violating the Computer-Related Crime Act for “putting into a computer system false data in a manner that is likely to cause panic in the public.”

If found guilty, he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 100,000 baht.

Writing under the name Zen Wide on his Facebook page, Danai’s post was shared more than 10,000 times. It has since been removed.

The charge is based on a complaint against Airports of Thailand (AoT), which operates six international airports in Thailand. The March 16 post on the “Zen Wide” Facebook account said that upon return from Barcelona, he and other passengers didn’t encounter any Covid-19 coronavirus screening at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, an AoT managed airport.

AoT claims his post is not factual and caused public panic by misleading people into thinking that Suvarnabhumi Airport failed to effectively implement Covid-19 screening.

International rights group Human Rights Watch has blasted the arrest.

“Thai authorities should immediately stop using ‘anti-fake news’ laws to prosecute people critical of the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“The state of emergency, which came into effect yesterday, three days after the arrest, heightens concerns of greater repression of free speech.”

“Thai authorities seem intent on shutting down critical opinions from the media and general public about their response to the Covid-19 crisis. The Emergency Decree provides the government a free hand to censor free speech.”

Whistleblowers in the public health sector too, and online journalists have faced retaliatory lawsuits and intimidation from authorities after they criticised government response to the outbreak and reported alleged corruption related to hoarding of surgical masks and other supplies and black-market profiteering.

Concerns about government restrictions on free speech rose when the PM Prayut Chan-ocha declared the  state of emergency on Tuesday.

SOURCE: The Phuket News


Get more from The Thaiger

Join the conversation and have your say on Thailand news published on The Thaiger.

Thaiger Talk is our new Thaiger Community where you can join the discussion on everything happening in Thailand right now.

Please note that articles are not posted to the forum instantly and can take up to 20 min before being visible. Click for more information and the Thaiger Talk Guidelines.

Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Follow Thaiger by email:

Crime5 mins ago

Thai paramilitary ranger kills two, injures one after row in bar

Indonesia29 mins ago

Unexplained plane mysteriously sitting in a field in Bali

Cannabis1 hour ago

Thailand getting high on cannabis boost to tourist economy

Sponsored2 days ago

LASIK eye surgery with state-of-the-art procedures in Thailand

Politics2 hours ago

Anupong: he and Prawit will leave government with PM Prayut

Tourism3 hours ago

Thailand’s economy grows but it still misses China’s cash

Thailand3 hours ago

Bars and clubs in Thailand proposed to open until 4.00 am | GMT

Join the conversation on the Thaiger Talk forums today!
Bangkok3 hours ago

Three bars shut down in Bangkok lacking licenses, Covid safety

Road deaths18 hours ago

UPDATE: Chon Buri police couldn’t find victim of car crash… on the back seat

Protests18 hours ago

‘Democracy Must Go On:’ Protestors have three demands for Thailand’s government

Thailand18 hours ago

Thailand News Today | Opposition to Thailand govt hosting former Sri Lanka president

Bangkok19 hours ago

Bangkok OAP arrested after slapstick armed robbery of gold shop

Phuket19 hours ago

Phuket officials say no human trafficking cases found in island province

Hong Kong20 hours ago

Hong Kong seizes 20 million baht of heroin hidden in Thai kickboxing pads

Crime20 hours ago

Nigerian and Vietnamese couple found dead linked to drug trade

Thailand20 hours ago

Thailand workers could earn over 100,000 baht in Saudi Arabia

Thailand11 months ago

Morning Top Stories Thailand | Police to end protests, Human Trafficking | September 14

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Thai Airways in rehab, All go for Songkran | March 4

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket’s nightlife. Yes, bars and clubs are still open | VIDEO

Phuket1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Covid passport talks, Thai Airways heads to court | March 2

Tourism1 year ago

Phuket Thai food treats you need to try | VIDEO

Thailand1 year ago

Thailand News Today | Bars, pubs and restaurants ‘sort of’ back to normal | Feb 23

Tourism1 year ago

In search of Cat & Dog Cafés in Phuket Town | VIDEO

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Gambling crackdown, Seafood market to reopen, Vlogger challenge | Jan 21

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid testing for visas, Business impact, Vaccine approval | January 19

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Weekend Bangkok bombs, Thailand fires, Covid update | January 18

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Stray car on runway, Indonesian quake, 300 baht tourist fee | January 15

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Governor off respirator, sex-trafficking arrest, condo prices falling | January 14

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Chinese vaccine, Thailand ‘drug hub’, Covid update | January 13

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Bangkok may ease restrictions, Phuket bar curfew, Vaccine roll out | January 12

Thailand2 years ago

Thailand News Today | Covid latest, Cockfights closed down, Bryde’s Whale beached | January 11