Thailand: Plans to block anti-monarch websites

The Thai government is planning to set up a firewall to block websites considered to be insulting to the country’s monarch, together with other Internet content deemed inappropriate.

According to news reports, the Communications Ministry has received more than 1,000 complaints on websites which are considered offensive to the royal family. Thailand, a constitutional monarchy, has severe lese majeste laws that have custodial sentences of between 3 to 15 years for whoever “defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent”. However, actual prosecutions are said to be rare.

Thailand is said to be already be blocking websites, although this is executed on a case-to-case basis by Internet service providers with reference to a blacklist furnished to them by the authorities. Furthermore, a Computer Crime Act, implemented last year, gives Thai police the power to enforce censorship of the Internet, and provides penalties for circumventing the provisions of the legislation.

However, the planned gateway to monitor and block online anti-monarchy sentiments will also do the same with pornographic or terrorism-related sites, according to Communications Minister Mun Patanotai. The project has an allocation of between 100 million and 500 million baht ($2.9 million and $14.6 million).

Mun was reported to have said that his ministry will also discuss the issue with intelligence units and state telecommunications companies. He also added that more than 80% of the offending websites are based outside Thailand.

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