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Thai journalist faces sedition charges for Facebook posts

Thailand's government has charged a journalist with sedition and violation of the country's computer law. Pravit Rojanaphruk had made online postings critical of Thailand's military rulers.

Thailand has charged the journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk with sedition following Facebook posts that criticized the military regime. As is wont, Pravit quickly took to social media to criticize the charges.

"I have seen the content, and I insist this an abuse of the sedition law," he told the AFP after meeting police to hear the charges on Tuesday. "The law is being used to silence criticism on social media."

Last week, police said they would bring sedition charges - punishable by seven years imprisonment - against Pravit and two politicians, including the former energy minister. Thailand's ruling junta has tried to clamp down on dissent, especially on social media.

Pravit Rojanaphruk

The journalist elected to pull no punches in his critique of the military authority

Pravit faces one charge for Facebook posts that criticized a junta-drafted constitution in February 2016. A second concerns posts from July 2017 that criticized how Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the nation's official leader, handled floods and the trial of ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose elected government the junta toppled in a 2014 military coup. The writer also faces charges under the Computer Crime Act - another tough law used by the junta to stamp out online dissent.

'Attitude adjustment'

Though soldiers have detained Pravit for "attitude adjustment" sessions twice since the coup, he has continued to criticize the regime and detail a surge in prosecutions of dissidents. Last month, Pravit won an international press freedom award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The International Commission of Jurists, which sent a representative to accompany Pravit to the police station, slammed the charges as part of an "alarming regional trend of criminalizing online speech."

Watch video 02:32

Going up against Thai military government

Tensions have risen in Thailand in anticipation of the verdict in Yingluck's negligence trial on August 25. The former premier may face up to a decade in jail if found guilty. Any harsh sentence could reignite conflict between her fervent supporters and the regime, which has intimidated media and suppressed all political activities for the past three years.

Junta officials claim that their clampdown will put an end to political rivalries that have fueled a decade of unrest. But critics say the government intends to suppress Thais loyal to Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, whom the military toppled in 2006. Though the Shinawatras have dominated national elections, the military-allied elite accuses them of corruption and dispensing costly populist handouts.

mkg/msh (AFP, AP)

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