Thai citizen in US sues hosting company over free speech & privacy

Anthony Chai, a Thai citizen living in California, filed suit in August, 2011 against Canadian web hosting company, Netfirms, Inc. for releasing his personal information to the Thai government.  Chai claims that after he had anonymously posted comments on the Thai government’s restrictions on free speech online, Netfirms disclosed his personal information to Thai officials, who then identified, detained and interrogated Chai in Thailand and in the U.S.  Chai was charged by the Thai government for criticizing the royal family.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, by the World Organization for Human Rights USA (previously involved in Yahoo-China cases) and Snell & Wilmer law offices.  It alleges that Netfirms violated California state law, the Constitution, and international human rights law.

The complaint is here.

Details of the case: Chai lives in Long Beach, CA and owns a computer store there.  He posted (anonymously) comments on a pro-democracy Thai-language website,  Netfirms hosts Manusaya.  Chai posted some comments about the Thai monarchy and the strict punishments for making critical statements of them.

Thai government officials requested information from Netfirms about who was posting on Manusaya.  Allegedly, sometime before May 2006, Netfirms suspended Manusaya’s hosting account, provided the authorities with Chai’s IP address and e-mail — all without Chai’s notice and consent.

Subsequently, Chai was detained at the Bangkok airport, interrogated about his Internet postings, then released — whereupon he returned to California, where he was again interrogated by Thai officials in a hotel in Hollywood, CA and informed Chai that if he returned to Thailand, he will be arrested and charged with violating their speech laws. In 2009, Thailand issued a warrant for his arrest.