Thailand blocks 2,300 websites for insulting monarchy

By DPA, Gaea News Network
Monday, January 5, 2009

BANGKOK - Thai officials Tuesday said the government recently blocked 2,300 websites for allegedly insulting the monarchy and is seeking court approval to shut down another 400.

‘We are preparing to ask for court approval to shut down an additional 400 sites,’ said Thailand’s Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) Minister Ranongruk Suwanchawee.

In a press release posted on the ministry’s website, Ranongruk said the ministry will seek amendments to the current lese majeste law to increase the ICT’s powers to crack down on websites deemed insulting to the monarchy.

The ministry has spent 45 million baht (1.3 million dollars) on equipment for its ‘war room’ targeting inappropriate web sites, reported The Nation online news service.

Thailand’s existing lese majeste law is already deemed the strictest in the world, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment for insulting the king or members of the royal family.

Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, 81, has publicly criticised the law, noting that he should not be above criticism.

Thailand has been under a constitutional monarchy since 1932 when a group of young army officers overthrew the absolute monarchy and launched Thailand on its bumpy road to democracy.

The king has limited powers under the constitution. As head of state he must endorse new governments, official appointments, ambassadors and legislation but is required to remain ‘above politics.’

The institution of the monarchy has come under increasing criticism over the past three years as it was politicized by groups opposed to populist politician Thaksin Shinawatra, a billionaire former telecommunications tycoon who was prime minister between 2001 to 2006, and those who want him back in power.

Thaksin was toppled by a coup Sept 19, 2006, and last October was sentenced to two years in prison on an abuse of power charge. He is living in self-exile.

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