Twitter User named “Niranam_”, arrested for computer crime offence over posts related to Thai monarchy, denied bail as the Court deems it a “serious offense”

On 19 February 2020, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) was informed by a 20-year-old twitter user with aliases “Niranam_” (@ssj_2475) from Chonburi (who does not want to reveal his real name) that police allegedly searched his residence and arrested him to the Pattaya Police Station without producing arrest warrant. He was later notified of criminal charges concerning the violation of the Computer Crimes Act relating to a twitter post with a picture of HM King Rama X. He has since been remanded in custody. On 20 February 2020, the Pattaya Provincial Court denied bail as the Court deems it a serious offense.

According to his family, the incidence took place the morning of ​19​ February​ at ​10.30am when someone rang the doorbell. Upon answering the door, almost ten police officers in uniform and plainclothes barged inside producing a search warrant issued by the Pattaya Provincial Court dated 19 February 2020. During the search, they seized two mobile phones before taking both “Niranam” and his parents to the Pattaya Police Station without arrest warrant.

Upon arrival at the Police Station, “Niranam” and his parents were subject to interrogation separately. He was questioned about his personal information and his education. The police shown more than 30 copies of the photos captured from his twitter account. Several of the posts are about the Thai monarchy. He was asked to cooperate and divulge his mobile phone passwords and was asked to acknowledge his ownership of the account “Niranam_”. They allegedly threatened that if he failed to comply with the request, he would be pressed with charges. The police also took still photo and video throughout the interrogation.

His family says that the interrogation lasted from 11am until 5pm. But as they were interrogated separately, the parents had no idea when their son was notified of the charges. They learned later that their son was accused of violating the Computer Crimes Act after admitting being the owner of the twitter account called “Niranam_” and having unlocked his phones for the police. During the notification of the charges, there was no lawyer and the officers did not provide them an arrest memo and charge sheet.

It was later known that the charges were a result of one twitter post with a picture of HM King Rama X. The post’s caption was deemed satirical. After being pressed with charges, “Niranam” was held in custody at the police station on the night of 19 February.

In the morning of 20 February 2020, Pol Lt. Chonwit Athiphansi, an inquiry officer of Pattaya Police Station had brought before the Pattaya Provincial Court where the Court was motioned by police to have him remanded in custody during investigation. An attorney from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights was present with him at the Court.

According to police’s motion requesting further remand of “Niranam”, the police claimed he was alleged to have violated Section 14 (3) of the Computer Crimes Act 2017 for “putting into a computer system any computer data related with an offense against the security of the Kingdom or an offense about terrorism, according to the Criminal Code.”

The remand request further stipulated that prior to the commission of the offense, the police had been monitoring movement of groups which are opposed to the monarchy and had come across the twitter account of “Niranam_” which was first opened in October 2018. According to their electronic investigation, it found that the account had been accessed twice using internet service of the True Co., Ltd. in January 2020. The access was verified by the IP addresses used during the two connections. From querying the True Move H Universal Communication Co., Ltd, they found the IP addresses match the phone number registered in the name of the alleged offender.

To corroborate evidence to identify the ownership of the account “Niranam_”, the officers also referred to a Twitter’s post made by “Niranam” in January 2020 in which he mentioned his age and birthdate. The birthdate matched that of the alleged offender in this case. Thus, it is believed that the alleged offender is the owner of the twitter account “Niranam_”. The police also had the alleged offender log into the twitter account by filling in the password and found posts related to the monarchy. As the alleged offender admitted being the poster, he was thus arrested and faced charges.

The inquiry officers claimed that investigation has not yet finished as six more witnesses will be interviewed and the alleged offender’s fingerprints have to be processed. They thus motioned to the Court to have the alleged offender remanded in custody for 12 days. The police further objected in case the alleged offender requested for bail, citing the offense’s high penalty rate and flight risk. The Pattaya Provincial Court granted the remand in custody, as requested by the police.

Even though his family applied for bail placing one hundred thousand baht as bail bond, but at 15.20, the Pattaya Provincial Court decided to deny him bail citing seriousness of the offense and flight risk as well as the police objection. Thus, “Niranam” has since been remanded in prison.