Online Censorship in Thailand (113,000 Websites And Counting)

Asia Sentinel published an article on internet censorship in Thailand a couple of days ago. It reveals that the current Thai government has blocked at least 113,000 websites, apparently because they are a threat to national security.

The MICT (Ministry of Information and Communication Technology) and the CRES (Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations) admitted blocking

  • 48,000 websites in May this year,
  • 50,000 in June and July and
  • adding 500 more per day.

The FACT (Freedom against Censorship Thailand) group has concluded their own research and found that at least 15,000 other websites are blocked by ISP (Internet Service Providers) too.

In most cases, the lèse-majesté law is used to justify the censorship.

Human rights groups have voiced their concerns about the arbitrary use of lèse-majesté. They say they believe the law has been employed as the government’s weapon to silence the opposition. So far, it has effectively built up a climate of fear under which those who possess dissenting views now resort to practicing self-censorship as they express their political opinions.

The murky investigation/prosecution process has also added up to the intensity of fear. Nobody really knows about how many sets of blacklists the Thai authorities have been making. Who is indeed responsible for cases involving the violation of lèse-majesté law? The police? The DSI? The MICT? The Foreign Ministry (for the crime committed outside Thailand)? Or the Immigration Office?

The punishment is also getting harsher since the state authorities have defined the threat to monarchy so closely with the concept of national security.

The article also mentions that Noam Chomsky – among others – has petitioned prime minister Abhisit to reform the law, in order to prevent abuse.

Elections, Imprisoned Candidates, Bombs & More State of Emergency

Yesterday at 5:45 PM  a bomb exploded at a bus stop near the Big C shopping mall in Rajaprasong, where the red shirts protested earlier this year. One 51-year old man got killed, and ten people got wounded.

This happened directly after the by-election for Bangkok MP –  the ruling Democrat Party won with 54% of the votes. (the unofficial count is 96,480 votes, against 81,776 for Mr Korkaew). Total voter participation was at 49.55 per cent — 191,598 votes out of 386,660 eligible voters.

Imprisoned Terrorist Gets 45% of Votes

It should be mentioned that the main rival in this election was running his campaign from prison, where he still is being detained by the authorities.

Imagine what it would look like if a man that’s currently in prison become the MP of Bangkok. What’s more, the government will press terrorism charges against Korkaew. Think about the fact that while 96,480 people voted for a “proper politician”, 81,776 people voted for a “terrorist”. And this in Bangkok, where there always has been a high sympathy for the Democrats.

State of Emergency Won’t Be Lifted Soon

This happened just shortly after prime minister Abhisit announced that he wanted to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible. Of course, after the bombing this won’t happen, and Panitan already publicly commented that the state of emergency was necessary.

Who Was Behind The Bombing?

Nobody has taken responsibility for the bombing. The obvious culprit would of course be a group of (red shirt) anti-government terrorists who want to cause chaos with the bombing.

Although, they would not have gained anything from the bombing. If the state of emergency would have been lifted soon as Abhisit announced, they would be in a way better position to carry out their plans. What’s more, it is likely that the government will use this incident to argue that it is not safe to hold elections anytime soon. (Remember that the currently ruling government is the party that is opposed to new elections, whereas the protesters want new elections).

That’s why some people speculate that others, who do have an interest in keeping the state of emergency in place, might be responsible for the bombings, and simply set it up to make it look like red shirts did it.

Potential to Spread Climate of Fear

It’s really sad that this happened – it is a tactic that is being employed by insurgents in Southern Thailand, where bombs explode in public places. Even with all the violence that happened during the clashes, people still had the option of avoiding the dangerous areas and thus “stay out of trouble”.

But random bombings are a completely different kind of problem. There was a similar incident during the New Years celebration in 2006.

Let’s hope that this will remain an isolated incident.