THAILAND: ICT ministry to shut down controversial websites

Information and Communications Technology Ministry targeting websites that commit lese majeste

Bangkok Post
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

The Information and Communications Technology Ministry has ordered staff to shut down any websites deemed to be violating the orders issued by the leaders of the Sept 19 coup. ICT Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said the ministry had the authority to block any websites considered to have committed lese majeste or seen as a threat to national security.

That power was vested in the ministry by the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR), he said. The CDR, run by the coup leaders, later metamorphosed into the Council for National Security (CNS).

Mr Sitthichai said his ministry was empowered by the CDR to regulate, block or terminate any information media deemed harmful to democratic reform.

The ministry was not targeting any website in particular, he added.

At the moment there was not much the authorities could do to the owner of a website whose contents were deemed to be lese majeste or in breach of security laws, said Mr Sitthichai.

The ministry was pinning its hope on a law on internet crimes, which has yet to be passed, he added.

One website which is being closely monitored is www.saturdayvoice.com, set up a group of anti-coup activists.

They are collecting signatures in support of a petition to the King for the removal of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda as president of the Privy Council.

Sudchai Boonchai, leader of the Saturday Voice group spearheading the campaign for Gen Prem's removal and co-founder of the website, said the network of anti-coup groups was trying to open a new website to voice their opinions.

"We are planning to register a new website overseas so the ministry cannot block it," said Mr Sudchai.

Any forced closure of a website was a violation of the people's right of expression, he said.

CNS spokesman Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said the CNS viewed the signature campaign against Gen Prem as being "inappropriate".

Gen Prem was appointed president of the Privy Council by the King, he said. It was improper to do anything that could be deemed as lese majeste.

Moreover, privy councillors were above politics, the spokesman said.

Col Sansern said the signature campaign was orchestrated by the old power clique.

The CNS had asked the police to look into whether petitioning for the removal of a privy councillor was legal or not under the law, he added.