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.
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, Paiboon
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
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
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
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.
Thailand's first blocklist was created by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology in January 2004 during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration. It blocked 1,247 URLs by name.
Thailand's first blocklist marked the first and only
attempt at transparency by Thailand's Internet censors. Every subsequent blocklist, the webpages blocked, the reasons for blocking and even the number of pages blocked is held in secret by Thai government.
Following Thailand's military coup d'etat
on September 19, 2006, the military's fifth official order on its first day in power was to block the Internet. Under the coup regime, tens of thousands of webpages were blocked.
The coup government's first legislative action was to promulgate the
Computer Crimes Act 2007. In its first drafts, the CCA prescribed the death penalty for computer crimes; this was modified in the final law to only 20 years in prison.
The new elected opposition government has continued the folly of its
predecessors. It was further revealed that Thai government censorship was rising at a rate of 690 new pages blocked every single day.
Thailand's censorship has shown no signs of abating and almost none of the webpages blocked during the emergency
have been unblocked. In 2012, more than 90,000 Facebook pages were blocked. So are online pharmacies and gambling sites.
To date, Thailand has spent THB 2,173,913,043---more than two billion baht---(almost USD $71 million) to censor our
On December 28, 2011, Thailand was blocking 777,286 webpages. Today, November 1, 2012, Thailand blocks ONE MILLION URLs
Vogue fashion magazine has been reporting on the dangers of social media posts that contain images which included alcohol brands. Vogue magazine writes:
Tourists might not realize as they make their guidebook-mandated
pilgrimage to nightlife hotspots like Khao San Road, is that despite the country's many Full Moon parties and bar girls, alcohol advertising is illegal. And posting a photo on social media of your beer by the beach could count as advertising.
Recently police have begun to strictly enforce 2008's Alcoholic Beverage Control Act, which bans displaying the names or logos of products in order to induce people to drink such alcoholic beverages, either directly or indirectly.
Last month, police announced their intention to more closely patrol social media and charge those found breaking the law. That means even if your favorite actress wasn't being paid for her endorsement and really was just sharing a
photo with a drink by the pool or on a night out, she could find herself facing a 50,000 baht (about $1,500 USD) fine for indirectly inducing drinking.
Earlier this month, eight local celebrities were fined for posting selfies
with alcoholic drinks on social media, with Thai Asia Pacific Brewery and Boon Rawd Brewery Co. (the producer of Singha beer) also implicated in the case. But police aren't just monitoring the accounts of the rich and famous -- at the beginning of
August, three bar girls found themselves arrested after making a Facebook Live video inviting people to come enjoy a beer promotion.
Thailand's Digital Economy and Society (DES) Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, has launched the government's 'anti-fake-news' centre at the head office of the country's state telecoms company TOT.
Buddhipongse said that any challenged infomation
will be verified within two hours by the centre. The verification process is said to include both human and artificial intelligence. He added:
Some 200 organisations in our network will each send two people to serve as
contact persons within 24 hours who have to receive cases and help verify whether their obtained information is true or false.
The centre will look at the top 10-20 most-shared news items or messages on social media platforms,
including Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter.
People are also allowed to send information they find suspicious to the centre so it can be checked and verified with relevant organisations. The verified information will be shared
through online channels.
Any information deemed as infringement will be forwarded to the Royal Thai Police for investigation.
The center will employ about 30 checkers who will target news about government
policies and content that broadly affects peace and order, good morals, and national security.