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A court sentenced a Thai webmaster Wednesday to an eight-month suspended sentence for not moving quickly enough to delete online comments deemed insulting to the country's royalty in a case widely seen as a test of freedom of expression in Thailand.
While the ruling showed leniency, it also sent the message that Internet content in the Southeast Asian nation must be self-censored. Chiranuch Premchai#*$! had faced up to 20 years in prison for failing to quickly remove 10 comments others had posted on her Prachatai news website.
She told reporters she found the verdict reasonable but still had thought she would be acquitted.
Bangkok Criminal Court Judge Kampol Rungrat said his guilty verdict was based on one particular post that was left on the Prachatai site for 20 days.
"Today's guilty verdict for Chiranuch Premchaip0rn, for something somebody else wrote on her website, is a serious threat to the future of the Internet in Thailand," Taj Meadows, Asia Pacific spokesman for Internet services giant Google, said by email.
"Telephone companies are not penalized for things people say on the phone and responsible website owners should not be punished for comments users post on their sites," he wrote. "The precedent set today is bad for Thai businesses, users and the innovative potential of Thailand's Internet economy."
I'm based in Thailand and my forum is full of cranky westerners that brought with them their western cultural baggage ... (truncated)