Censorship in Thailand has always been accomplished by government in secret. The number of websites blocked, its blocklists
and the methods it uses to block have never been disclosed to the Thai public..
However, the new cybercrime law required that the government seek a court order before blocking. However, since passage of the law, Web censorship has become far murkier, with Thailand'
s 100 ISPs blocking blocking independently in order to avoid being criminalised under the law for illegal content transiting their servers. And no court orders have been requested.
Now ISPs are required to keep all Internet traffic logs for 90 days. Two cyber-dissidents have already been arrested under the new law tracked by their IP addresses for comments they made on Thailand'
s monarchy to public Web discussion boards.
Make no mistake: Internet censorship is illegal in Thailand under at least 11 articles of the 1997 Constitution, by decree of the lawmakers'
Council of State and by order of the Administrative Court. Has this stopped the censors? Didn'
t even slow them now.
s newly-elected government and its new ICT Minister are using lèse majesté as its ongoing excuse to block freedom of opinion and expression by Thais on issues vital to our society.
The past few weeks have seen YouTube blocked again as well as Prachatai, Thailand'
s foremost independent news portal and Same Sky, a journal of social criticism. Both sites have popular public Web discussion boards. In the past, both sites have been warned by MICT to self-censor “sensitive” public comments.
However, both Prachatai and Same Sky were closed this week without court order by the ICT Minister who was interviewed on May 14 on the Khao Den Praden Ron radio news programme. His comments reveal that, not only was he completely aware he was acting
above the law, but that suggestion for the censorship came from those higher up in Thai government.
Quoting the Minister: [Pursuing legal action] will…become a big scandal. We'
d better suppress the news. Someone higher than me is of this opinion . This means, of course, that the rose-apple is rotten to its core and that Thai bureaucrats engage in criminal acts with impunity.
Twenty nine "inappropriate" websites are being investigated for content deemed to be critical of or offensive to
the Thai monarchy.
A police source at the High-Tech Crime Centre said a list of inappropriate websites, compiled about a month ago, has been handed over to the Special Branch Police.
The SBP is working with the Department of Special Investigation (DSI) in tracking down operators or owners of those websites, the source said.
Note that Lese Majeste accusations are sometimes more to do with settling personal scores rather than strident attacks on the monarchy.
The newspapers published the list of sites under investigation. Having compiled the list, the thorny issue of how to block them seems to be causing problems. The recent law suggests that blocking should be via court orders but these
have not been obtained. So it seems that the blocking has been delegated to ISPs with assurances that they will not be prosecuted.
Information and Communications Technology Minister Man Pattanothai said that so far internet service providers had not dared to block websites found to have lèse majesté content for fear of breaching the National Telecommunications Commission law that
forbids blocking information flows, with a maximum penalty of licence revocation.
After consulting with the National Telecommunications Commission, the ICT Ministry has assured all ISPs that they will not be subject to the penalty if they block the truly offensive websites, said the Minister.
The National Telecommunications Commission has confirmed with the ministry that blocking websites offensive to the royal family can be carried out without breaching the law. Therefore, the ICT Ministry can guarantee all ISPs that their licenses will
not be revoked, said the Minister.
ICT Minister said that there had been an order from ‘high above'
not to block the websites and to allow the free flow of information, on the grounds that foreigners do not understand the blocking and may form negative perceptions.
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed about the comments made by Man Pattanotai, the Thai minister of information and communication technology (ICT), in a radio interview on 14 May. He said prosecuting websites because of their content would cause a “big
scandal” and that it was better to just “suppress the news” by closing them down or blocking access.
By voicing a preference for radical censorship measures, the minister is in complete contradiction with the Computer Crime Act, which has been in force since the summer of 2007 and which requires the authorities to bring a complaint against a website
before requesting its closure, Reporters Without Borders said: We condemn the reinforcement of online controls, which includes the creation of a toll-free number for people to call to denounce any website criticising the monarchy.
The Information and Communications Technology Ministry is to introduce an internet gateway system to block websites containing content Thailand doesn't like. ICT Minister Mun Patanotai will also hold a meeting with webmasters today to discuss measures to
suppress lese majeste material.
The gateway system, which could cost between 100 and 500 million baht, could will be used to block websites considered inappropriate, such as those of terrorist groups or selling pornography.
However, the ministry will focus first on websites with content deemed insulting to the Thai monarchy, Mun said. Ministry officials are looking into about a thousand websites, he said. Mun said the ministry has been working with the National Intelligence
Agency and the police in cracking down on anti-royal sites.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said he has assigned relevant agencies, particularly the ICT Ministry, to take strong action against offenders.
Special Branch Police are monitoring five community radio stations that are also airing political content that could be considered lese majeste, a source said.
Ayutthaya Governor Preecha Kamolbut has ordered authorities to monitor all provincial community radio and cable TV stations around the clock.
The police ordered officers to take immediate action against offenders without waiting for complaints.
Thailand has blocked 2,300 Web sites and is establishing a war room for future crackdowns, which critics say threaten free speech.
Authorities are seeking a court order to shut 400 more sites and will spend 45 million baht ($1.3 million) to create a 24-hour center to police Internet material, Information and Communications Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee said in a
statement posted on the ICT’s Web site.
The ministry is investing a lot of money to buy expensive software to block Web sites, but actually it’s very contrary to international standards, said lawyer Paiboon Amonpinyokeat: The government has to understand the nature of the
Internet and the concept of freedom of speech.
Under the 2007 law passed after the military seized power in a coup, authorities can’t block Web sites without a court order. The law was designed to prevent abuse of power by giving judges the final say on whether to shut down an Internet site,
The ministry plans to introduce heavier fines and prison terms for anyone who supposedly insults the king via the Internet, Ranongrak said in the statement. She also plans to target inappropriate online games and casinos. And of course there are
plenty of porn sites on the censored list.
Thai police said that they have found another 1,500 web sites that allegedly insult the country's monarchy and have ordered them to be blocked amid an intensifying crackdown.
The announcement comes just days after the government said it had already prevented access to around 2,300 websites under repressive lese majeste laws which protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family.
The laws have been criticised by rights groups and media organisations in recent months, while critics have accused the government of using them to suppress dissenting voices on the Internet.
Police have found up to 1,500 websites containing content that is insulting to the royal family, Lieutenant General Suchart Mueankaoe, commander of Bangkok Metropolitan Police, told reporters.
Lt Gen Suchart said his force was responsible for prosecuting cases of defaming the monarchy no matter where the case originated. Currently there are 17 cases active, out of these eight are still being investigated.
Thailand has been adding more web pages to its extensive blocked list.
On December 4 2008’s official blocklist of 37 are online pharmacies selling morning after pills directed at Thai consumers in Thai.
It looks as if the fundamentalists at the IT ministry, MICT, are making themselves Thailand’s morality police.
January 14, 2009’s MICT blocklist comes as a result of the ministry’s application for court orders to block 408 separate web pages. All blocked pages are videos on video sharing sites.
Most notable is a new video hosted in the Czech Republic, Harry Nicolaides Is a Political Prisoner.
Content previously on YouTube as part of the StopLeseMajeste channel has been diversified to 65 public video-sharing websites, most hosting multiple blocked videos. The sites are located in at least 12 identifiable countries. 25 further YouTube videos
have been blocked as well as 31 YouTube pages in 23 countries. A single page at Google Video is also blocked.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned about mounting government threats to media and Internet freedom in Thailand, including legal action against community radio stations and censoring thousands of Web sites.
Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga recently told a parliamentary session that his ministry intends to censor 3,000 to 4,000 Web sites for posting materials considered offensive to the Thai monarchy. The Information Communication and Technology
(ICT) Ministry announced on January 5 that it had shut down 2,300 Web sites for violating the country's strict lese majeste laws.
Piraphan said that he had established 10 different panels to implement the Internet crackdown and that his ministry was working closely with the ICT and Defense ministries. He mentioned in particular that three Thai nationals had been identified for
posting anti-monarchy materials on the Web site Manussaya and that one of the writers has been arrested on lese majeste charges.
Satit Wongnongtaey, a minister in the prime minister's office, proposed taking legal action against five community radio stations he contended were causing unrest through their news reporting. He mentioned specifically the Taxi Lovers Club radio station
situated in Bangkok and four others located in Chiang Mai, Lamphun, and Udon Thani provinces.
The areas are known to be strongholds of former and now exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, political rival to the now incumbent Democrat Party-led coalition. Satit sent a proposal to investigate the stations for instigating unrest to the
government's Public Relations Department's subcommittee on broadcasting and told reporters that the subcommittee must take quick action against them. He did not specify what form that action might take.
Thailand is headed in the same direction as its historically more authoritarian neighbors--including Myanmar, Vietnam and China--in regards to Internet censorship, said Robert Mahoney, CPJ's deputy director: We call on the country's new
democratic government to quickly reverse this worrying trend and instead work toward re-establishing the country as a regional standard-bearer for free expression.
CPJ recently reviewed a copy of draft legislation signed by Piraphan that intends to expand the censorship powers vested in the controversial 2007 Computer Crime Act. According to the draft amendments, ICT ministry officials would no longer be required
to receive court approval before blocking and censoring Web sites. Thai courts approved the ICT Ministry's earlier blockage of 2,300 Web sites on grounds of lese majeste, but officials have since said that the legal process has slowed their work in
censoring the recent proliferation of anti-monarchy materials posted to the Internet.
On January 27, CPJ sent a letter to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expressing its concerns about Thailand's fast deteriorating media climate.
The increasing censorial Prime Minister of Thailand, Abhisit Vejjajiva, has said that he had instructed the Information and Communication Technology Ministry to crack down on websites, which allow students to post messages soliciting sex clients.
Abhisit said the ministry was taking actions against the sites. He said the prostitution by students was influenced by wrong values so there should be campaigns to have students change their values. He said the government is launching the
campaigns through education as well.
Previously the issue had been identified by colleges and universities who sought action against students found to have engaged in direct-sale prostitution via social-network websites like Hi5.
Assoc Prof Sukhum Chaloeysap of Suan Dusit Rajabhat University said all institutes of higher learning should admit the problem existed and join forces to combat it.
Some students are said to have touted sexual services on Hi5, which has links to more than 1,000 other websites that openly post students' pictures, many in uniform, and suggestive messages. He urged the principals of colleges and universities to
Many students' part-time jobs are affected by the economic slowdown, driving some to prostitution to earn extra money, he said.
He blamed the online student sex trade on youth's faulty values and overspending on luxurious and unnecessary items that drove young people to such lengths to get quick cash. He called for strong families and proactive educational and religious
institutions to counter the trend.
The government in Thailand has set up a special website urging people to inform on anyone criticising the monarchy.
It has also established a war room to co-ordinate the blocking of websites deemed offensive to the monarchy. On its first day of operation the centre banned nearly 5,000 websites. The Ministry of Information had already blocked many thousands of sites,
but that work is now being accelerated by the new centre.
Internet users are being urged to show their loyalty to the king by informing via a new website called protecttheking.net (Thai language), which has been set up by a parliamentary committee. It calls on all citizens to inform on anyone suspected of
insulting or criticising the monarchy.
The new website appears to be part of a concerted effort by the government and its conservative supporters to stifle any debate on the future of the monarchy, before it can gather momentum, our correspondent says.
The committee formalized the Internet Security Operations Centre (ISOC), formerly known as the ‘War Room', to monitor inappropriate content on the internet, with officials from the ICT Ministry and other relevant agencies keeping watch 24 hours a day. A
special call centre is being set up for the public to give information on inappropriate websites.
In the ISOC room, staff will be divided into three sections to monitor three categories of inappropriate websites: (1) those which offend the nation, religion, and monarchy, (2) those which affect tradition and culture, such as Hi5, or advertise
abortion pills, and (3) those which provide gambling and dangerous online games such as the GTA game, said the ICT Minister.
According to the minister, the MICT has requested court orders to close or block 4,818 URLs which include 4,683 web pages offensive to the monarchy, 98 pages offering pornography, and 37 pages containing false advertisements.
The MICT and the Ministry of Culture have also been monitoring the postings of pictures of female students with phone numbers for the purpose of prostitution, and have found an increase in online advertisements for abortion pills and sex gear.
Thailand's Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, the Official Censor of the Military Coup, has blocked at least 17,775 websites which, along with blocking by the Royal Thai Police, resulted in more than 50,000 websites blocked in
Thailand. Public webboard discussions, circumvention tools, voices from Thailand's Muslim South and critical commentary of Thailand's monarchy were particularly targetted for censorship.
Thailand's military government also passed a Computer-Related Crimes Act with draconian penalties and onerous data retention provisions abnegating privacy and anonymity and chilling public discussion of vital issues among Thais. The result of this
cybercrime law was to criminalise circumvention with one notable exception, the Virtual Private Networks (VPN) relied on by business to create a secure, private, encrypted channel.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has now provided links
to easy tools for private citizens to legally ignore Thailand's Internet censorship. Virtual Private Networks have been complicated to set up and difficult to maintain. However, with these two free, public tools, VPN is available to everyone.
Thailand's Internet--once open and free--is fast morphing into one of Asia's more censored cyberspaces. But a new group of concerned Thai citizens, known as the Thai Netizen Network (TNN), is bidding to turn back the tide of government censorship through
advocacy and monitoring.
Web sites that have posted materials deemed potentially offensive to the Thai royal family have been blocked by successive military-appointed and democratically elected Thai governments. And the campaign of censorship is accelerating under new Prime
Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Beginning last year, a group of academics, activists, journalists and webmasters held informal meetings to discuss the emerging threat to Internet freedom in the wake of the passage of the 2007 Cyber Crime Act and the intensified use of lese majeste
charges against journalists, commentators, and everyday Internet users. Both laws give Thai officials the authority to censor news and opinions that could be deemed a threat to national security or the monarchy.
TNN coalesced into a formal organization soon after several local Web sites, including news and commentary outlets Prachathai and Fah Diew Kan, were threatened with closure last year by officials for posting materials offensive to the monarchy. Fah Diew
Kan's site was eventually blocked in January after officials threatened the site's ISP administrator.
TNN coordinator Supinya Klangnarong told CPJ that the new group's main missions are to keep Thailand's Internet open and free, to monitor government surveillance and censorship, and to provide moral and legal support to Internet users and writers who
encounter harassment for their postings.
Currently, TNN is publicizing the case and arranging legal representation for Suwicha Thakor, an oil-rig engineer who was arrested and held without bail on January 14 for posting materials onto the Internet considered offensive to the monarchy. They have
also taken up the case of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, who faces three different lese majeste complaints filed by a senior Thai police official.
A Thai Criminal Court has ordered the closure of 72 websites offering access to online gambling and games.
The court order follows the death of a 12-year-old boy who jumped from the sixth-floor balcony of his school building after he was banned from playing computer games by his father.
Department of Special Investigation (DSI) deputy chief Suchart Wong-anandchai said under a May 19 order issued by the Criminal Court to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Ministry, the agency was told to shut down 72 websites seen as
encouraging people to place online bets or hooking them on computer games.
Pol Col Suchart, who also sits on the ICT's subcommittee on internet safety, said it was the first time that a court order had been issued in the country to close websites offering online gambling opportunities.
From now on any provider found to encourage or provide online gambling will not only face a jail term and a fine, but also have his/her ISP licence revoked by the ICT, he said.
Among the 72 websites facing closure are 368sb.com and 88suncity.com, both based in the Cagayan Special Economic Zone of the Philippines.
George 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.
Global 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.