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Reporters Without Borders is more concerned than ever about the Internet’s future in Thailand after yesterday’s announcement that access to more than 2,300 websites was blocked in 2008, in most cases for lese-majeste (insulting the king), and the new information minister’s pledge to make it her priority to block such online content.
“By trying to protect the king’s image, the government is actually doing it harm and in some cases the charge of lese-majeste has been entirely inappropriate and unjustified,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Australian author Harry Nicolaides was arrested exactly four months ago today and has been held in a Bangkok jail ever since on a lese-majeste charge for writing just two lines about a close relative of the king without even naming him. We reiterate our call for his release.”
Three days being appointed as minister of information and communications technology, Ranongrak Suwanchawee said on 29 December that blocking websites with lese-majeste content would be the ministry’s main task. She also said that her predecessor in the post was “mistaken in believing that little could be done to control sites originating overseas.”
Two days before that, members of the Democrat Party-led government called for the lese-majeste legislation to be made tougher, while the army’s commander in chief, Gen. Anupong Paojinda, told his officers to make sure there were no attacks on the king. Speaking to more than 800 battalion commanders, he urged each battalion to monitor one to two websites for negative content about the monarchy.
Nicolaides, who is from Melbourne, was arrested on 31 August as he was about to board a flight back to Australia. He used to teach at Mae Fah Luang university in the northern city of Chiang Rai and wrote for magazines and websites. His four requests for provisional release have all been rejected.