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26th December   

Updated: Banned Film Laid to Rest...

Director holds mock funeral for movie banned by the Thai film censor
Link Here

insects in the backyard A Thai director has staged a mock funeral of a recently banned film, complete with a mournful speech about the deceased and guests placing sandalwood flowers at a miniature crematorium.

Director Tanwarin Sukkapisit conducted a mock funeral at the Thai Film Archive for the recently banned film Insects in the Backyard.

Tanwarin, wearing a black dress, dark shades and make-up, gave a short speech before leading about 30 guests, most of them also wearing black. There was a funeral wreath and framed photograph of the director from a scene in the film.

At 2.30pm, Songyos Sukmakanant, president of the Thai Film Directors Association, lit a small funeral pyre containing a DVD of Tanwarin's film. Guests then took turns to place sandalwood flowers in the pyre.

It was just a movie, said Tanwarin: It shouldn't have had to come to this. At first I thought it would be a fun event . But it turned out to be really sad because I've been working on the film for two years. It was like raising a baby and now the baby is gone.

Insects in the Backyard was banned by the Thai censors two weeks ago for supposedly being against public morals.

The film tells the story of a cross-dressing father, played by katoey Tanwarin, and his dysfunctional family. It has a masturbation scene and scenes of students engaged in prostitution.

The Thai Film Foundation and Thai Film Archive had planned to screen the film on 10th December to mark Constitution Day. They hoped that would be possible if the film was shown for educational purposes with no commercial gain. They also planned to hold an academic seminar featuring legal experts.

But the Office of Cultural 'Promotion', which oversees the censorship of all films, sent an urgent letter to organisers reminding them that they would break the law if they screened the film. Even the film's trailer wasn't allowed to be shown.

The punishment for screening a film without permission is a maximum one-year jail term and a fine of 200,000 baht to one million baht. Organisers decided to cancel the screening but hold the seminar.

In my view, the law must stipulate clearly what's allowed and what's not, said Sawitree Srisuk, a law lecturer from Thammasat University who spoke at the seminar. To use a broad term such as 'public morals' is not sufficient.

Jetsada Anujaree, a representative from the Lawyers Council of Thailand, said the selection of the censorship committee members should be changed to allow more participation from industry people and less control by state officers [mainly police].

Tanwarin has appealed to the National Film and Video Board about the ban.

Update: Appealing

20th December 2010. See  article from  nationmultimedia.com

There was no final decision last night after the Culture Ministry's National Film Board viewed the censored gay-themed movie Insects in the Backyard.

I'm glad, we still have another chance, director Tanwarin Sukkhapisit told The Nation.

Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Trairong Suwankiri, the National Film Board screened the film and Cultural Minister Pinit Intarasombut said the board had not made a final decision regarding the controversial film and it would meet again by December 23.

The board's members include director Prachya Pinkaew and film critic Kittisak Suwanpokin. Tanwarin said there was support for the film to be released under the 20- rating, which restricts it from viewers under age 20 and requires ID checks at the cinema.

Update: Appeal rejected on morality grounds

26th December 2010.See  article from  filmbiz.asia

Thai censors have confirmed the ban on the release of the gay-themed film Insects In The Backyard.

The National Film Board ruled that the film was deeply Immoral and could not be allowed even a limited release in specialist theatres. In November the censor board ruled that the film's content goes against public order or morality.

Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, it is the story of a transvestite father's  upbringing of two teenagers. The film includes scenes of masturbation and fetish sex between the teenagers and their paying clients.

Tanwarin said that the scenes the censors objected to were crucial to the film and cannot be cut. She told news agencies: the problem with my film wasn't that it was a gay-themed movie _ because there are many gay comedies allowed in Thailand. My movie was banned because it was a serious movie. It showed there can be real problems when society cannot accept sexual differences.

 

27th November   

Updated: Slipper Censors...

Thai police to censor red shirt souvenirs
Link Here

red shirts The Thai authorities of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation has banned souvenirs and other materials considered as opposing the monarchy or government which were available at the red shirt rally in Bangkok on Friday.

Thousands of red shirt supporters converged at the rally marking six months since the military's May 19 crackdown on their protracted rally in Bangkok.

The CRES on Friday issued a number of orders to prohibit the sale or free distribution of rally materials including shirts, photographs, illustrations and printed texts.

People found guilty of breaching the ban could face up to two years in jail and a maximum fine of 40,000 baht.

However, CRES spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd conceded it may be difficult to determine what items should be banned, so it would be up to the police to judge what rally items would 'cause disunity'. Sansern said feet-shaped plastic clappers should be fine, but not a pair of sandals with the faces of government politicians printed on them.

To enforce the ban, police would first give a violator a verbal warning. If he or she did not stop, legal action would then be taken, Sansern said.

An army source said General Prayuth was upset when he came across T-shirts and sandals carrying photos mocking important figures.

Update: Slippers Unbanned

27th November 2010. Based on article from  nationmultimedia.com

The Center for Resolution of Emergency Situation (CRES) has agreed to lift ban of political sarcastic items created by protesters to insult elite as the spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the centre found nobody violated the regulation.

The authority earlier prohibited distribution of any political material such as the flipflops with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's image as the times might create division in the society.

Civic groups had criticised that the order saying that it violated basic rights of the people and that such satire would never cause social divide.

 

26th November   

Thai Web Blocking...

Minister in charge of web blocking says that it doesn't work
Link Here

thongchai sangsiri Thongchai Sangsiri, director of computer forensics within Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), and charged with overseeing the Web blocking regime, told a an audience at a recent gathering at the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity cybersecurity forum that blacklists are too lengthy and have proved quite difficult for ISPs to properly handle.

He said that Web filtering was a job best left up to parents: We would like [to] leave parents and teachers to decide what to filter … because [the current system] is too much to handle . The blacklists grow with many, many websites to become a burden on ISPs. Blacklisting doesn't work.

Sangrisi added that he thought the whole Web blocking plan was simply a way to make the majority of the public think the government was actually doing something about perceived 'problems' on the Internet: The majority of the public will think the government is doing something; for public image it is good .

 

3rd November   

Update: More Blocked Sites...

Thailand website blocking hits a quarter million
Link Here

Thailand flag Thailand's Technology ministry, MICT, is to close 46,000 more websites for being critical of Thailand's political setup.

This is the first government announcement of further Internet censorship since July.

The new Army commander has signed a memorandum of understanding specifying 43,000 websites to be blocked immediately and 3,000 pending.

Relying solely upon previous government media releases totaling 210,110 websites, Thailand is now blocking 256,110 websites.

 

19th October   

Update: Vo Van Ai Visa Veto...

Thailand again blocks Vietnam dissident from attending human rights event in Bangkok
Link Here

seahrn logo Thailand has drawn fire by again preventing a prominent Vietnamese dissident from speaking at a conference in Bangkok.

The president of the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights, Vo Van Ai, was refused a visa by the Thai Embassy in Paris, the second time that he has been prevented from travelling to Bangkok in recent weeks.

His previous visa was cancelled in the run-up to a stillborn September launch of a critical report on human rights in Vietnam, a move which brought international criticism upon Thailand.

An empty chair marked the place where Vo Van Ai was to have delivered a lecture titled Universality and Particularity in Human Rights: A Vietnamese Buddhist Viewpoint at the First International Conference on Human Rights in Asia. The event drew scholars and activists from across southeast Asia and beyond and was held by the Southeast Asia Human Rights Network (SEAHRN) and Bangkok's Mahidon University.

Dr. Srirapha Petcharamasree read letter from Vo Van Ai to SEAHRN, in which he said that the attitude of the Thai government is particularly shocking given that Thailand holds the presidency of the UN Human Rights Council. Dr. Srirapha called on the Thai Government to be faithful to the commitment made to the UN when it made its candidacy to the presidency.

 

28th September   

Update: Press Criticism...

Prachatai news website editor arrested on lese majeste charges
Link Here

Prachatai logoThe Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest of Chiranuch Premchaiporn, editor of the popular Thailand news website Prachatai, on charges of insulting the royal family.

Prachatai said police at Suvarnabhumi Airport detained Chiranuch as she arrived from Hungary, where she had attended an Internet freedom conference. Police confirmed the arrest in comments to Matichon, a Thai-language daily newspaper.

Her arrest stems from comments posted to Prachatai in 2008 that were allegedly in violation of the Computer Crime Act and lese majeste laws.

We urge Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to release journalist Chiranuch Premchaiporn immediately and unconditionally, said Shawn W. Crispin, CPJ's senior Southeast Asia representative. The government should stop using anti-crown charges to suppress legitimate criticism.

 

15th September   

Updated: Regional Criticism Banned...

Thailand pressures FCCT to cancel press conference
Link Here

fcct logoThe Thai government acted inappropriately in pressuring the Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) to cancel a press conference that would have criticized Vietnam, the Committee to Protect Journalists have said.

The Bangkok-based FCCT had intended to host a press conference by the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights and the Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR). The two independent rights groups had planned to launch a new report called From Rhetoric to Reality: Human Rights in Vietnam, under its Chairmanship of ASEAN 2010.

The FCCT said in a statement that the ministry first contacted it by telephone on September 9 to request that the club cancel the press conference because it might contain information detrimental to a neighboring country. The ministry also requested that the FCCT inform the event's two scheduled speakers, VCHR's Vo Van Ai and Penelope Faulkner, that the ministry would deny them visas on arrival upon landing in Thailand. The event was then formally cancelled by the two groups.

The FCCT provides an important space for journalists to meet and exchange ideas with newsmakers and that space should remain open and free of restrictions, said Shawn Crispin, CPJ's Senior Southeast Asia Representative. Regrettably, the pressure put on the FCCT is consistent with a wider crackdown on the free press and Internet under way in Thailand.

Thani Thongphakdi, head of the Thai ministry's Department of Information, wrote in a September 10 e-mail to the FCCT that the government attaches great importance to the principles of freedom of expression and diversity of views ...BUT... that it also has a long-standing position of not allowing organizations and/or persons to use Thailand as a place to conduct activities detrimental to other countries.

There are rising concerns among Bangkok-based journalists that the Thai government will become less tolerant of such programs to guard against regional criticism of its own anti-democratic tendencies.

Update: Vietnam thanks Thailand for gagging human rights criticism

15th September 2010. Based on article from  monstersandcritics.com

Vietnam flagThe Vietnamese government has thanked Thailand for preventing two activists from travelling to Bangkok to present a report criticising human rights in Vietnam.

Vietnam welcomes Thailand's refusal to allow Thai territory to be used for activities opposing Vietnam, government spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga said.

She said the action was appropriate to the friendly and cooperative relations between Vietnam and Thailand, and to the charter of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

 

29th August   

Update: Freedom Deteriorating in Thailand...

Media and internet under duress
Link Here

SEAPA logoPress freedom in Thailand, especially for broadcast media such as community radio stations and Web boards, has palpably deteriorated over the past six years, lamented Roby Alampay, outgoing executive director of the Southeast Asean Press Alliance (Seapa).

The Internet over the past six years has played a crucial role in allowing people to debate and air their views, Alampay said, adding that things had become more personal when users began facing censorship, state monitoring and the threat of prosecution over content in their e-mails or social networking sites. Print media fortunately remain very vibrant and free, he added.

Alampay told The Nation that Thais have to be mindful about the growing legal constraints that curb freedom of press and expression.

Six years ago, Thaksin Shinawatra was no friend of the media , but was put in check by the courts, Alampay said. Now, after political and military upheaval, there is Abhisit Vejjajiva.

You have a prime minister who benefited from political and military upheavals, and he says all the right things about press freedom, but in the background, there's a lot of trouble, he said.

For example, he said, the current Computer Crime Act was dangerous because the authorities were exploiting its harsh penalties and weaknesses. Then there's the spate of arrests under the lese majeste law.

When Abhisit first came to power, he told society not to worry about the law , but Alampay said things have turned out to be quite disappointing and unfortunately got worse under the current administration.

 

28th August   

Update: Softly Softly...

The impact of Thai film classification after the first year
Link Here

Thai film certificatesThe Thai film classification system has now been running for one year.

Thai movie Namtal Daeng , or Brown Sugar , promises that the story will be about sex, and perhaps love.

Brown Sugar , an ensemble of three erotic tales by twenty-something directors, has passed the rating committee with an 18-plus classification _ and without a cut. In the actual film, yes, you'll see women's nipples, the whenever-wherever seduction, and the simulated love-making.

Two months ago, Sukit Narin released his racy, cleavage-obsessed Pu Ying Ha Babb 2 (Sin Sisters 2). Five women recount their sexual experiences and reveal the upper part of their bodies (some using stand-ins). The film was also passed without a cut, but with a 20-plus classification, which stipulates ID check at the entrance. Sin Sisters 2 was later re-edited to make it milder and was released on VCD and DVD, with an 18-plus rating.

The issue at hand is apparent: Are Thai films ready for sex and explicit titillation? Has the much-derided rating system opened up new possibilities for filmmakers to show things _ and organs _ that couldn't be shown on the big multiplex screen under the old censorship law? Breasts, sure. Penises, yes. Masturbation, why not? People bobbing and moaning, quite okay, too.

Beyond flesh, what about sensitive politics, crooked politicians, bad cops, charlatan monks, southern unrest, Islamic issues, or a cinematic prime minister announcing a State of Emergency _ will those be allowed to show on the big screen as well?

By law, breasts go under the 18-plus category and no ID check is required. Penises, 20-plus. Simulated sex is either 18 or 20, depending on the intensity. But when it comes to violence or disturbing visuals, the rule isn't so clear.

Last year, a Thai independent movie showing clips of the Tak Bai incident was banned from showing at a local film festival. Earlier in 2010, action film Suay Samurai was ordered to cut a scene showing gunmen opening fire into a mosque, or facing a ban. A horror, Haunted Universities , was also instructed to delete a shot alluding to soldiers shooting at students during the Oct 14, 1973 demonstration.

For now, it seems that flesh and passion have found a leeway to the big screen. It's possible now to see local breasts in the multiplex _ it's well known that the censorship has been more lenient with non-Thai nipples.

Without the new rating system, I don't think it would have been possible to make a film like Brown Sugar , said Prachya Pinkaew, advisor of the project: With the old censorship system, the investors didn't dare put the money in a film like this since it could face a ban, and directors didn't want to risk doing a movie that would be cut.

The first Thai film to be slapped with a 20-plus grade was an arthouse drama, Jao Nokkrajok , or Mundane History , earned for a scene showing a naked man trying to arouse his own penis in a bathtub.

If sex has received a green light, the next boundary to push is politics. No matter how conservative Thai authority can seem when it comes to flesh-flashing movies, they can be even more reactionary and paranoid when politics is served up in films. Hardly a Thai picture has touched on the hot waters of politics, despite the fact that this is the period in history where politics is most inseparable from Thai life.

 

20th August   

Update: 110,000 Websites Blocked...

Thailand becoming one of the least free states in the region
Link Here

wsj logoCriticism over Thailand's efforts to curb political debate online is mounting as the government restricts thousands of websites following deadly protest clashes earlier this year.

Thai authorities say they have blocked at least 40,000 Web pages this year, according to the government's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online.

Many of the sites feature criticism of the government or debates about Thailand's revered monarchy, a taboo subject here. As a result, some advocates say Thailand—long seen as a relative haven of free speech in Asia—is becoming one of the least-free states in a region that includes China and Myanmar, when it comes to discourse online

...Read the full article

Update: Wikileaks Blocked

20th August 2010. Based on article from google.com

Thai authorities have used their emergency powers to block domestic access to the WikiLeaks whistleblower website on security grounds, a government official said Wednesday.

The order came from the government unit set up to oversee the response to political unrest that rocked the nation's capital earlier this year, a spokeswoman for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry said.

Access to this website has been temporarily suspended under the 2005 emergency decree, she said.

Notes

The Wikileaks block has yet to filter through, and for the moment, Wikileaks continues to be available to some in Thailand.

There is speculation that this action is more about toadying to the US who are pissed off about the Afghan War leaks.

WikiLeaks has launched ThaiLeaks, a web page of downloadable ‘magnet links’ to Thailand news items. The whistleblower announced the launch of the new page today on Twitter. It said even if the new page is blocked citizens will still be able to access information through the links which can be sent in e-mails, instant messages, even printed on paper, in order to keep information flowing.

 

25th July   

Offsite: Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil...

Thailand's Massive Internet Censorship
Link Here

Global Voices logoGlobal Voices Advocacy (GVD), a global anti-censorship network of bloggers and online activists, has launched a shocking report that Thailand has blocked at least 113,000 websites deemed to pose a threat to national security.

With its objective to defend free speech online, Global Voices revealed that Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) and the Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES) admitted to blocking 48,000 websites in May this year, 50,000 in June and July and adding 500 more per day.

Almost all blocked websites were accused of breaching Thailand's infamous lèse-majesté law. Lèse-majesté, or the crime of injury to the royalty, is defined by Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which states that defamatory, insulting or threatening comments about the king, queen and regent are punishable by three to 15 years in prison.

The punishment is also getting harsher since the state authorities have defined the threat to monarchy so closely with the concept of national security. In Thailand, the monarchy is not only a symbolic institution. It is the pillar of national security, said Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, a former judge. Whatever is deemed as affecting the monarchy must be treated as a threat to national security.

...Read the full article

 

23rd July   

Updated: Waved Off...

Thailand silences 26 community radio stations
Link Here

NTCThai authorities, using the emergency decree, have recently shut down 26 more community radio stations in nine provinces, media reports said.

The Nation said six more stations were pressured to discontinue their operations. The English-language newspaper also reported that at least 35 people working for these stations, like radio hosts, station managers and executives, are facing lawsuits for allegedly encouraging their listeners to join the Red Shirt protest rally in Bangkok a few months ago, and for distorting information.

Suthep Wilailert, secretary-general of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), which organized a seminar on 14 July 2010 under its Community Radio Watch project, however, said there are no clear details to substantiate these charges. Suthep said sometimes as many as 200 soldiers would come to a community radio station to threaten the media workers and confiscate transmission equipment.

The CPMR reported that in Ubon Ratchathani, some 200 officials showed up to shut down a community radio station, while in Chiang Mai, up to 500 officials were deployed to close down another community radio station. Suthep said some of these officials were even armed with automatic weapons.

Dr. Niran Pitakwatchara, a commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission, said that shutting down these radio stations could backfire on the government.

 

21st July   

Updated: Sorry is the Hardest Word...

Thailand banned from saying sorry in TV commercial
Link Here

thailand sorry video Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has suggested the censorship board reconsider its ban on the TV commercial Thailand, We Apologise.

Abhisit said he has watched the advertisement on the internet and he thinks its producers only had good intentions in getting their message across to the Thai people.

The prime minister said the producers wanted to instil a sense of responsibility in all Thais and encourage them to take action to correct past mistakes.

The prime minister said he has no idea why the commercial has fallen foul of the censors. He said the censors should step forward to offer an explanation of why they have banned the advertisement.

The censorship board is made up of representatives from all free TV channels. No government agencies are involved in censorship of TV commercials.

The commercial was produced by a group calling itself Positive Network. It is made up of members of the advertising and public relations industries along with social networks.

The advert tells the story of the red shirt protests by using pictures and script to depict what happened to the country and questions society. The music Auld Lang Syne was used in the background.

Here is a translation of the script: Did we do anything wrong? Did we handle anything too harshly? Did we listen to only one side of the story? Did we perform our duties? Did we really think of people? Were we corrupt? Did we take too much? Did the media make people better informed? Did our society deteriorate? Did we love money more than the rightness? And did we only wait for help? If there was anyone to blame, it would be all of us. Apologise? Thailand. And if there was anyone who can fix the problems, it would be all Thais. Keep the loss in mind and turn it into our force.

The censors said the commercial has been banned because it could create conflict and there is a risk of lawsuits being filed by parties affected by the riots. The board has told the producer of the advertisement to correct it and resubmit it for approval.

Bhanu Inkawat, previously a well-known advertiser and founder of the Positive Network, said the producer will make changes to the commercial so it can gain approval to go on air.

Update: Not banned, just a lot of cuts

21st July 2010. Based on article from nationmultimedia.com

The Board of Censors has defended its decision to ban the Kor Thort ... Prathet Thai (Apologise ... Thailand) television commercial, claiming it might make social rifts even deeper.

The censors hadn't in fact banned the commercial ...BUT... To allow the commercial on air, the panel has ordered that six scenes of the 150-second commercial, involving images deemed legally and morally improper such as the burning of buildings, soldiers pointing guns, nudity, monks being arrested and violent protests, be taken out.

 

4th July   

Good Moral Use...

Thailand to recruit 200 lay people to monitor websites
Link Here

MICT logoThailand's Information and Communications Technology Ministry is working with the Justice and Education ministries to launch Cyber Scout, a project to build a network of volunteers to monitor for inappropriate content on the Internet.

The project will train volunteers to engage with the cyber society and monitor websites that may compromise national security as well as those that criticise the monarchy

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said it would also educate people on the appropriate use of technology: The Internet now is a powerful communications channel and a two-edged sword. It is so important to encourage good moral use of technology for people

ICT Minister Chuti Krairiksh said that in the beginning, this project would recruit 200 people from around the country, including students, teachers, government officials and the private sector, who have computers and Internet literacy.

These people will be trained in the proper use of the Internet and then they will become online volunteer scouts to help the government screen websites.

 

3rd July   

Offsite: President of the UN Human Rights Council...

But Thailand is no human rights champion
Link Here

UN logoThe recently concluded session of the UN human rights council ended with the election of Thailand as the new president to the 47-member council.

The result of the election is quite a surprise, given that Thailand has recently gone through the worst political violence the country in decades.

Thailand's ministry of foreign affairs issued a public statement highlighting that the election result clearly reflects the confidence that countries around the world have in Thailand and its human rights policies and standards .

Can this election of the council's presidency be viewed as a realistic reflection of Thailand's human rights standards?

The council was set up in 2006 to replace the contentiously debated UN commission on human rights. The election of the presidency is done on a rotating basis from five regional groups: Latin America and Caribbean, eastern Europe, Africa, western Europe and other states, and Asia. Since 2006, representatives of all four regional groups have served as presidents to the council, with the exception of Asia.

Based on this, Thailand was not competing against countries with better recognised human rights records such as those governments of Switzerland or Norway. Instead, Thailand was competing against countries in Asia, namely Bangladesh, Kyrgyzstan and Maldives – all of which are criticised by rights watchdogs as human rights violators.

Both Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan, prior to the election, resigned from the contest after fierce campaigns by human rights groups claiming they were unsuitable contestants to head the council.

The election, therefore, only left Maldives and Thailand to compete.

Maldives, a relatively young democracy, has only just emerged from a history of military coups and held its first democratic election in 2008. The country was ruled by Maumoon Gayoom, who denied free and fair elections, for 20 years. Being a small country, the Maldives lacked the political leverage required to convince member states of their leadership.

This is how the council was left with Thailand.

...Read the full article

 

21st June   

Updated: Crime Prevention and Eradication...

Thailand approves creation of a new body of internet censors
Link Here

Thailand flagThe Thai cabinet has approved the creation of a new cyber crime agency to stamp out online criticism of the revered monarchy.

The government, which has blocked tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, said the main task of the Bureau of Prevention and Eradication of Computer Crime would be to prevent criticism of the monarchy.

Under the kingdom's strict lese majeste rules, insulting the monarchy or a member of the royal family can result in jail terms of up to 15 years. Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it.

And under Thailand's computer crime law, introduced in 2007, acts of defamation and posting false rumours online are punishable by five years in jail and a fine of 100,000 baht.

Thai authorities had already been closely scrutinising online comments about the monarchy since the Red Shirt campaign. Campaigning for changes in Thai democracy is seen by the Thai authorities as very close to criticism of the monarchy.

Update: Blocking list now 113,000 websites!

21st June 2010. Based on article from advocacy.globalvoicesonline.org

On May 9, Thai Information Ministry MICT and the Thai emergency law enforcers CRES admitted to blocking at least 50,000 websites and adding 500 more per day. Thai anti-censorship campaigners, FACT's, extensive testing across Thai ISPs has revealed that ISPs are blocking at least a further 15,000 bringing the total to more than 65,000. In the second week of May, CRES announced blocking of 770 new websites; on May 26, CRES announced blocking of 1,150 more. If we add these new figures to 46,000 websites, Thailand is blocking at least 113,000 websites!

On June 17, Thailand's new ICT minister announced a blacklist of 200 persons banned from posting to the Internet. This restriction was undefined but presumably all sites bearing these names will be blocked. Although the names of former PM office minister Jakrapob Penkair and Chulalongkorn University professor Giles Ji Ungpakorn, both in exile over lèse majesté charges, are known to be on the blacklist, the rest of the list is secret.

Included in the announcement of the blacklist on June 17, government is threatening to take charge of websites it doesn't like!

 

16th June   

Censorship by Greed...

Millions of Thai viewers lose their TV after action by World Cup rights holders
Link Here

world cup 2010 logoSome 5 million Thais have lost their standard TV channels.

Thai viewers with C-band satellite dishes installed in their homes were left angry and confused yesterday after the screens of free television channels airing live World Cup matches went black without prior notice.

This is the Thai equivalent to UK's FreeSat and is particularly popular in areas of the country where broadcast reception is weak or non-existent.  The outage is to all programmes, not just the football.

World Cup Copyright-owner RS Promotion later explained the blackout was mandated by Fifa for non-encrypted broadcast in Thailand.

In its statement, RS explained that the free to air C band satellite broadcasts are receivable in other countries in the region. A complaint was lodged with Fifa from the copyright-owner in India, which said local viewers were able watch live matches free of charge by receiving signals from Thaicom 5.

 

28th May   

Update: Truth Today...

Thailand bans 4 red shirt newspapers and magazine
Link Here

truth today logoThai authorities have banned four publications linked to the anti-government protest movement.

Thailand's army chief Anupong Paochina signed an order this week to ban three newspapers and one magazine associated with the red-shirt protesters at the centre of the worst rioting in modern Thai history last week.

The bans to supposedly protect national security will further stifle communications by the protesters' United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).

Breach of the bans carry a maximum jail term of two years.

The move follows the blocking of scores of websites, community radio stations and the UDD's television station, People's Channel, under a state of emergency currently in place in Bangkok and 23 provinces.

The outlawed publications include:

  • the twice-weekly Truth Today newspaper
  • the weekly Thai Red News
  • Vivatha
  • bi-monthly Voice of Taksin.

These media outlets are not real newspapers. They are tools for groups to create chaos in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban told reporters. There are some community radio stations and some print media outlets which encourage people to be antagonistic towards one another so we have to do something.

 

24th May   

Updated: Ghostly Parable...

Director criticises censorship restraints on Thai film makers
Link Here

uncle boomee titlesThai arthouse director Apichatpong Weerasethakul slammed the country's tough censorship rules as his latest movie entered the race for the top Cannes film festival award.

Acclaimed by many Western film critics for his auteur offerings, his latest movie Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a parable on a cinema that's also dying or dead , he said: But you cannot blame Thai film-makers. They cannot do anything because of these censorship laws.

We cannot make a movie on the current situation, he added, due to laws that ban threats to national security. Anything can be thrown into that.

The film-maker, who said he flew out of Bangkok as the city was burning , expressed hoped that something will change for the best from the current chaos. Thailand is a violent country, he said. It's controlled by a group of mafia.

In his movie, Uncle Boonmee is sufffering from acute kidney failure and has decided to spend his last days in the jungle, where the ghost of his dead wife returns along with his missing son, turned into a hairy monkey ghost.

Update: Palme d'Or

24th May 2010. Based on article from guardian.co.uk

Asian cinema tonight emerged as the surprise winner of this year's Cannes film festival when a lyrically beautiful and often surreal Thai movie took the Palme d'Or.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives , directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, already had the best title of the 19 films in competition. Jury chairman Tim Burton named it best film, seeing off films from an impressive roster of film makers that included Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Abbas Kiarostami.

Burton said deciding the Palme d'Or had felt like an easy choice. The jury saw the film early and it stayed in their heads throughout the festival, he said. The world is getting smaller and more westernised, more Hollywoodised and this is a film where I felt I was watching from another country. It was using fantasy elements but in a way I'd never seen before so I just felt it was like a beautiful, strange dream.

Accepting the award, Weerasethakul, the first Thai winner of the Palme d'Or, said: I would like to thank all the spirits and all the ghosts in Thailand who made it possible for me to be here.

 

9th May   

Update: Detrimental to Society...

Thai Big Brother posters warn of dangerous websites
Link Here

Big BrotherGeorge Orwell's 1984 had its Big Brother, and Thailand has Ranongrak Suwanchawee.

The country's information minister stares down from billboards along Bangkok's expressways, warning that bad websites are detrimental to society and should be reported to a special hotline.

Anti-censorship campaigners yesterday warned that Thailand was now following regimes like neighbouring China and Myanmar in shutting down access to opposition internet sites and seriously restricting press freedom.

The government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is fighting a battle on at least two major fronts against protesters seeking to oust it. On the streets, a massive force of soldiers and police has only managed to battle them to a standstill.

In cyberspace, the authorities have fared little better, despite efforts to block dissenting voices with the threat of lengthy prison terms.

The often broad-brush approach to blocking websites even affects surfers just out for some video fun. Live streaming services justin.tv, ustream.tv and livestream.tv have also been blocked, apparently because they host transmissions by the so-called Red Shirt protesters.

Thailand is getting increasingly like China when it comes to internet censorship, said Poomjit Sirawongprasert, president of the Thai Hosting Service Providers Club.

 

17th April   

Update: Foreign Correspondent Under Fire...

Thailand complains about Australian programme
Link Here

foreign correspondent logoThailand has protested to the Australian government over the airing of a documentary critical of the Thai royal family and warned that the broadcast could affect ties between the nations.

A senior representative from the Thai embassy met with officials from Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs o express his concern at the programme, Foreign Correspondent , aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The concern is that it might affect the good relations between Thailand and Australia, especially the people to people relations, Saksee Phromyothi, minister-counsellor at the Royal Thai Embassy, told AFP: We consider this an issue matter of national security... because the royal family, the monarchy, in our constitution is above politics.

Thailand's ambassador designate Kriangsak Kittichaisaree has also written to ABC managing director Mark Scott to complain about the programme which could breach Thailand's lese-majeste laws which prohibit criticism of the royals: I regret that an organisation of the ABC's stature has lowered its own standard by airing the said documentary which is presented in a manner no different from tabloid journalism .

A spokesman for Australia's Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that Thai embassy officials had complained about the ABC programme but said: The Australian government does not and cannot control content run by Australian media organisation .

 

16th April   

Serious Threat...

Thailand warns about internet postings about the protests
Link Here

nnt logoThe Thailand has issued  rather severe warning about internet postings about the red shirt protests:

The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has now been strictly curbing all defamatory internet contents that likely pose serious threat to national security with an aim of preventing further division in the society.

Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication Technology Sue Loruthai said that the Ministry had been instructed to take a close watch and curb all allegedly defamatory internet contents which possibly instigate the hatred of the people and might cause further conflict in society.

Meanwhile, the internet users have been warned to use the internet in the right way or with appropriate purpose and avoid disseminating information that could create misunderstanding or instigate violent actions among the public. Also, all popular websites and social networks such as facebook, twitter, hi5 and my space will be under thorough watch.

Violators will be prosecuted by law with no compromise.

 

10th April   

Updated: Censors See Red...

Thailand bans and blocks red shirt TV and websites
Link Here

Prachatai logoThailand's Government has taken decisive action to close down media supportive of the anti-government protesters, but an official spokesman has continued to insist that force would not be used to disperse the crowds now besieging the nation's capital in their thousands.

In a move that has been compared with Thailand's restrictive bans on reporting news concerning the royal family, the protesters' People satellite television and 36 internet networks were suddenly blocked.

The closure was precipitated by the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday, Government minister Sathit Wongnongtoey told reporters, and it was part of the plan to return Thailand to normalcy .

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship protesters, widely known as red-shirts, have been broadcasting on the People Channel from an intersection in Bangkok's prime retail shopping strip.

Camped out at the Ratchaprasong intersection since the weekend, the red-shirts have blocked traffic and effectively forced the closure of as many as six large shopping malls and hampered the trade of two five-star hotels.

Thailand's tourism and commercial operators want action to disperse the red-shirt protesters who have been demonstrating in Bangkok since early last month, but they are concerned that a show of force will deter tourists and visitors and damage the nation's already battered reputation.

So far, there has been little outright violence, although grenade attacks by unknown marauders have injured a few and rattled Bangkok's residents.

The red-shirts, representing the rural poor of Thailand's north and northeast, want Abhisit ousted and his Government dissolved. They say the ruling coalition won power illegitimately, has never won a mandate from the Thai people, and is in thrall to the nation's military and urban power elites.

Update: PTV re-banned soon after being unbanned by protesters storming satellite uplink station

10th April 2010. Based on article from bangkokpost.com

The government yanked the red shirts' TV station off the air again after earlier agreeing to the protest group's demands to reinstate the service.

The government was forced to reinstate broadcasts of the People Channel (PTV) after a clash between red shirts and troops at the Thaicom satellite ground station in Pathum Thani resulted in the red shirts taking control of the station.

However, by last night troops had regained control after many of the red shirts returned to their main base in Bangkok.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, acting government spokesman, said the government would keep PTV off the air.

The red shirts stormed the telecom company compound after authorities shut down their TV channel in line with the state of emergency declared by the government on Wednesday.

But after soldiers failed to hold them back, the red shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) negotiated with police to return the People Channel to the air.

Meanwhile, a source from the Information and Communication Technology Ministry said staff are seeking cooperation from all internet service providers, including TOT Plc and CAT Telecom, to block websites supporting the red shirt movement. He admitted it would be a tough task, as red shirt backers could always open new sites again.

 

30th March   

Miserable Daily Mail...

Newspaper has a knock at British Airways union leader for visiting Bangkok GoGo bar
Link Here

nanaaza The boss of the trade union behind the British Airways strike has admitted visiting a gogo bar while on official business in Thailand.

Derek Simpson and fellow Unite official Terry Pye went to enjoy a beer in the Playskool bar in Bangkok's Nana Plaza.

Simpson, the £105,000-a-year joint general secretary of Unite, and Pye, the union's national officer for the steel industry, were in Bangkok at the end of last month during negotiations aimed at averting the current series of BA cabin crew strikes over pay and conditions.

They flew to Thailand at union expense for a two-day stopover to meet union leaders from the Thai motor industry.

Simpson denied any impropriety. He said: It was entirely innocent, and I left before I finished my drink. I'd never been to Bangkok before, so it was a bit of an eye-opener for me. We walked to the bar, which was a stone's throw from our hotel. Actually, it's not my thing. I am, in fact, a tad prudish. I've been like that all my life.

Simpson's judgment was questioned by fuddy duddy MPs and women's groups.

Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said: It does seem rather ironic that this man, who is preventing everyone else having a simple family holiday, should, at the union's expense, jet off to the other side of the world and conduct himself in a rather unseemly fashion. I wonder how the women members of the union will react to this, given that Mr Simpson is supposed to uphold the dignity of women, not exploit them.

 

29th March   

Updated: Inappropriate Images...

New Thai movie winds up Buddhist campaigners
Link Here

nak prokThe Association of Buddhist Relations have said that the film Nark Prok ( Naga Hood ) gave Buddhist monks a bad image and vilified the religion as a whole.

The association's chairman Adisak Wannasin said he would lodge a petition with the Thai Culture Ministry asking it to review its decision to allow the film to be screened.

Adisak said the film included inappropriate images like showing three men dressed as monks touching women - an act that is forbidden under the discipline of monkhood. According to the screenplay, the three saffron-clad men are bandits planning to rob a temple.

Somkiat Sorralump, a member of the House committee on religions, arts and culture, said his panel would take drastic action if the film ended up getting screened. He said the panel believed the movie was meant to make Buddhism look bad. The producers want to destroy Buddhism, he added.

Update: Temple thriller

29th March 2010. Based on article from bangkokpost.com

Romping, gun-slinging monks (spurious monks, it turns out) have roused 'anxiety' among Thai religious groups - and even a senator. What has happened since last week's release of the contentious film Nak Prok ( In the Shadow of the Naga ) is not so much a debate as grumbles and subterfuges.

Somchai Khemklad and Ray McDonald are crooks disguised as monks in a controversial movie which critics say harms the image of Buddhism.

Opponents are unhappy that the integrity of Buddhism is compromised by the film's posters, which show muscular men in precariously-clad saffron robes, baring fangs and swinging guns.

Members of a religious group marched to the office of Sahamongkol Film, who produced the film, demanding what I'm not sure, since Nak Prok has got the permission to play, with an 18-plus rating and warning captions.

The studio agreed to take off the posters by the end of this week. Meaning: after two weekends in the cineplexes, the film is likely to have generated the majority of its income and the removal of the posters will hardly matter. I don't know if the protestors were trying to get the film banned, which is impossible, since it had already passed the censors.

Nak Prok tells the story of two bandits who disguise themselves as monks and hole up in a forest temple. If nothing else, the film defines a new sub-genre: temple thriller.

The film was canned for three years for fear of a ban but is now making decent money.

 

20th March   

Update: Hidden Economy...

The Economist pulls another issue from distribution in Thailand
Link Here

economist thailandOne of the world's most popular English-language news publications will not be distributed in Thailand this week because of an article on the nation's monarchy.

In an email issued to subscribers, the UK-based magazine The Economist, said that due to the sensitive nature of the publication's coverage of the Thai monarchy, the March 20th edition will not be distributed in the South East Asian country. There were no indications that the online edition of The Economist would be affected.

The article in question examines concerns in Thailand over the question of potential royal succession and how it relates to recent political unrest in the country.

Friday's self-censorship by The Economist marks the fourth time since late 2008 that the publication has been pulled from circulation in the Thai kingdom over a story about the nation's monarchy.

 

27th February   

Clearing the Airwaves...

Thai Radio stations had been warned in the run up to Thaksin asset seizure case
Link Here

National Telecommunications CommissionThailand's National Telecommunications Commission had been investigating about 20 community radio stations for allegedly trying to incite violence in the run up to Thaksin's asset forfeiture verdict.

NTC acting secretary-general Thakorn Boonyasith said the stations were accused of violating operating regulations.

Some have been accused of encouraging listeners to cause chaos as the ruling on ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's 76.6-billion-baht asset seizure trial draws near. Others are alleged to have offended the monarchy.

The NTC says there are about 6,600 registered community radio stations across the country which are granted 300-day permits. They are prohibited from slandering anyone, inciting violence or damaging the institution of the monarchy. Those who do will have their permits revoked for a year. Thakorn said the stations in question had been asked to send their archived broadcasts for the past 30 days to the NTC for examination.

Thakorn said he had sent a letter to all community radio stations last week warning them to comply strictly with the regulations.

 

2nd January   

Arresting Statistics...

Reporters Without Borders report on international arrests of bloggers
Link Here

Reporters without Borders logoReporters Without Borders has released its 2009 year-end round-up on. There are 151 bloggers and cyber-dissidents arrested, 61 physically assaulted and one died in prison in 2009. When compared with 2008, the number of bloggers arrested increased 155%. The report pointed out that China continued to be the leading internet censor in 2009 and RSF will launch a new campaign against the enemy of the Internet in coming March. Below is the summary on blogger and cyber dissidents section:

For the first time since the Internet's emergence, Reporters Without Borders is aware of more than 100 bloggers and cyber-dissidents being imprisoned worldwide for posting their opinions online. This figure is indicative above all of the scale of the crackdown being carried out in around ten countries. Several countries have turned online expression into a criminal offence, dashing hopes of a censorship-free Internet.

The Internet has been the driving force for pro-democracy campaigns in Iran, China and elsewhere. It is above all for this reason that authoritarian governments have shown themselves so determined to severely punish Internet users. This is the case with two Azerbaijani bloggers, who were sentenced to two years in prison for making a film mocking the political elite.

Although China continued to be the leading Internet censor in 2009, Iran, Tunisia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan have also resorted to frequent blocking of websites and blogs and surveillance of online expression. The Turkmen Internet remains under total state control.

This year, bloggers and ordinary citizens expressing themselves online have been assaulted, threatened or arrested as the popularity of social-networking and interactive websites has soared. Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer is still in jail, while the famous Burmese comedian Zarganar still has 34 years of his prison sentence to serve. The approximately 120 victims of Internet policing also include such leading figures in the defence of online free expression as China's Hu Jia and Liu Xiaobo and Vietnam's Nguyen Trung and Dieu Cay.

The financial crisis has joined the list of subjects likely to provoke censorship, particularly online. In South Korea, a blogger was wrongfully detained for commenting on the country's disastrous economic situation. Around six netizens in Thailand were arrested or harassed just for making a connection between the king's health and a fall in the Bangkok stock exchange. Censorship was slapped on the media in Dubai when it came for them to report on the country's debt repayment problems.

Democratic countries have not lagged far behind. Several European countries are working on new steps to control the Internet in the name of the battle against child porn and illegal downloads. Australia has said it will set up a compulsory filtering system that poses a threat to freedom of expression.

Turkey's courts have increased the number of websites, including YouTube, that are blocked for criticising the republic's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The number of countries affected by online censorship has doubled from one year to the next – a disturbing tendency that shows an increase in control over new media as millions of netizens get active online, said Lucie Morillon, head of the Internet and Freedoms Desk. That is why Reporters Without Borders will launch a new campaign against the Enemies of the Internet on 12 March.



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