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Thailand 2 February 2006

Website denouncing corruption forced to seek host abroad

Reporters Without Borders condemned what it said was a serious decline in online press freedom in Thailand after Corruptionwatch.net received a letter from its host, Thai Dream, on 27 January 2006 giving notice of closure on 1st February because of "technical problems".

The website was launched on 9 January 2006 with the declared objective of exposing cases of public corruption or those implicating people close to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Its organisers complained of a "climate of fear" among Thai web hosting companies, which was forcing them to seek a host abroad.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said another website, manager.co.th, linked to satellite TV station ASTV, had also been reportedly threatened with closure a few days earlier. "The fact that publications critical of the authorities are forced to leave the country is a sign that political pressure is applied to web hosting companies," it said.

"We urge the government to ensure that everyone has the right to express themselves online in Thailand," it added.

One of the managers of Corruption Watch, Dr Along Korn Ponlaboot, said he was convinced that Thai Dream had ended the contract for political reasons. "The government should protect freedom of expression and not allow a climate of fear to take hold among Internet service providers. It is a disgrace for a government that considers itself democratic," he added.

Ahead of the final closure, Thai Dream agreed to make the site temporarily available at another IP address. However, Corruptionwatch.net is not accessible today.

The management committee of Corruption Watch met on 1st February and decided to switch to an American provider from 3 February. Bosses at Manager.co.th said it had received a closure order from the Communication Authority of Thailand (CAT). Their provider, Internet Solution & Service Provider Co, has however not yet put the order into effect and the site was still accessible.

There is legal confusion about the procedures involved in closing a website. All Thai service providers have to work under the supervision of CAT, a body which is itself controlled by the government.

Thailand has been on the Internet Freedom desk’s list of "countries to watch" since November 2005. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15613


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