Thai editor held for four days, accused of violating martial law

Thanapol Eawsakul, editor and founder of Fah Diew Gahn (Same Sky) news magazine, a tri-monthly Thai-language publication, was arrested on July 5, 2014, in a Bangkok café, according to news reports. He was held on a seven-day detention order, the maximum period allowable without a trial under martial law, and released on July 9, 2014.

Fah Diew has been banned in the past for publishing critical commentary about the country’s influential royalist establishment and its frequent use of draconian lèse majesté laws, criminal codes that shield Thailand’s royal family from criticism.

Thanapol was summoned by Lieutenant Colonel Pasakorn Kulraviwarn to a private meeting at a coffee shop on Bangkok’s Phahonyothin Road, according to news reports. After a brief discussion, soldiers in plain clothes led him to a nearby car and transported him to the 2nd Cavalry Division’s Bangkok-based compound for “attitude adjustment” talks, reports said.

His detention was believed to be related to critical comments he made about military rule on the social networking site Facebook, according to reports.

Thanapol was previously detained on May 24, 2014, and freed seven days later under a separate detention order that conditioned his release on him refraining from writing critical commentary about the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta and participating in political activities, news reports said. On June 3, 2014, days after his release, Thanapol announced in a letter to subscribers that Fah Diew Gahn would temporarily suspend publication due to a “climate of fear” and “censorship measures” imposed by the NCPO, according to local reports.

Army commander and coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha imposed martial law on May 20, 2014, and seized power two days later from Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan’s caretaker government. His ruling junta has since sharply curbed media criticism by blocking websites and cable TV news stations, intimidating outspoken reporters, and pressuring the mainstream broadcast and print media to soften its news coverage, according to CPJ research.

On June 25, 2014, the NCPO established four panels to monitor news outlets and social media sites that are tasked with preventing the spread of “misinformation” about the junta and “hatred” of the royal institution, according to news reports. Under the arrangement, news or comments deemed as detrimental to the NCPO or monarchy are reported directly to coup leader Prayuth and National Police Chief General Adul Saengsingkaew.

It was not immediately clear if Thanapol’s detention order was influenced by the newly created social media monitoring panel housed at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.