The Thai cabinet Tuesday approved the creation of a new cyber crime agency to stamp out online criticism of the revered monarchy.
The government, which has removed tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, said the main task of the Bureau of Prevention and Eradication of Computer Crime would be to protect the monarchy.
“The monarchy is crucial for Thai national security because it is an institution that unifies the entire nation,” government spokesman Watchara Kanikar said.
Under the kingdom’s strict lese majeste rules, insulting the monarchy or a member of the royal family can result in jail terms of up to 15 years. Anyone can file a lese majeste complaint, and police are duty-bound to investigate it.
This comes after the change of the ICT Ministry too, per the Bangkok Post:
A parliamentary showdown caused a cabinet reshuffle caused the end of the career of the best information and technology minister Thailand has had since 2009; farewell Ranongruk Suwunchwee, who transformed the ministry from a mere communications technology bureaucracy into a true Ministry of Internet Censorship of Thailand (MICT); also looking for work will be Ms Rangongruk’s spouse Pairote, who will presumably lose his unofficial but thriving office at the ICT ministry; it will be difficult for new minister and Democrat Party functionary Juti Krairiksh to live up to the standard of the previous censor, but he insisted he was up to the task; within days of taking office, Juti confirmed that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva had personally instructed him that monitoring websites was one of the three most important jobs he would ever perform for the country.
Thai Rath on what Juti said the other day that there were 200 posters of lese majeste information on the internet. Then there is this quote:
“นายกรัฐมนตรีได้กำชับให้เน้นเป็นพิเศษในการดูแลปัญหาเรื่องเว็บไซต์ โดยขอให้เชิญทุกฝ่ายที่เกี่ยวข้องมาทำความเข้าใจและขอความร่วมมือ เพราะที่เป็นปัญหาหลักในการหมิ่นพระบรมเดชานุภาพ คือ เรื่องเว็บไซต์ เช่น กรณีของเว็บประชาไทที่เจ้าของเขาเก่ง เมื่อสั่งปิด เขาก็ติดต่อกับต่างประเทศ ให้มาถ่ายภาพเขายืนเกาะลูกกรงอยู่ ทำให้ภาพพจน์ประเทศออกไปไม่ดี จึงขอให้หาทางพูดคุยทำความเข้าใจกับเจ้าของเว็บไซต์หรือผู้เกี่ยวข้องเพื่อเสริมสร้างความปรองดองและสมานฉันท์ได้อย่างแท้จริง”
[BP’s own translation: “The PM emphasizes that to handle the website problem he would create understanding and ask for cooperation, because the main problem of lese majeste is websites. For example, in the case of the Prachatai website, the owner is very intelligent and when there is an order to close the website, the owner will make contact with overseas media, even when they are behind bars, which makes a bad image for the country. Therefore, I request to talk to create an understanding with the website owner or person involved in order to create real unity and reconciliation”]
BP: Aside from Nirmal and Nick Nostitz, were there any other foreign journalists there? Am reliably informed there that Nick and Nirmal were the only two journalists there. Have only seen one photo of Chiranuch behind bars. No doubt Chiranuch should just keep quiet and serve her time in jail. As long as people don’t know about it, then it is ok.
On May 29 in a press briefing an AP reporter asked why prachatai.com continued to be blocked. In response, Abhisit stated he didn’t know about prachatai.com but added that its webboard discussion may have defamatory content. “The whole website should not be shutdown. I thought we lifted [it] for a while. But I will look into the matter again.”
BP: A few days later CRES blocked Prachatai’s latest URL. Prachatai was blocked in early April and its blocking actually received fairly widespread media coverage at the time. So how long will the government continue to block it? How much longer will Abhisit continue to look into it without any resolution? He expressed regret last year over the arrest of Chiranuch. Since his expression of regret, the prosecution is moving forward with the case against Chiranuch and her trial will start next year.