Thailand Bans Online Interaction with Monarchy Critics

BenarNews staff
170412-TH-somsak-1000.jpg Prominent Thai historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul is pictured after turning himself in to police in Bangkok over charges of insulting the monarchy, May 11, 2011.
Bangkok Post/AFP

The Thai government on Wednesday banned citizens from interacting online with three outspoken critics of the monarchy, effectively widening its restrictions on speech in the online domain.

The individuals are Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a former lecturer at Thammasat University now living in France; Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a lecturer at Kyoto University in Japan; and Briton Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a former Reuters reporter, according to the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.

“[It] is announced that general citizens do not follow, contact, share content or spread content or information of the trio stated herein on the internet or social media, directly or indirectly, to avoid violation of the Computer Crimes Act – advertently or inadvertently,” a Ministry statement said.

The announcement, dated April 12, was published in several mainstream media outlets but not immediately posted on the ministry website.

Declaring an individual persona non-grata online – barring Thais from contacting them or engaging with their content online – is unprecedented, but the Ministry cited an unrelated criminal court  order banning "inappropriate content" under the Computer Crimes Act of 2007.

An official with the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society told Thai PBS that the announcement was intended to help people avoid trouble.

“It is our good intention to let citizens know that certain information that they are looking for on the internet are banned by a court order and be aware that such surfing may affect them directly or indirectly,” Deputy Permanent Secretary Group Captain Somsak Khaosuwan said.


Thailand already prosecutes individuals for online activities deemed illegal under the nation’s strict royal defamation law.

On Dec. 3, 2016, two days after the ascension of King Maha Vajiralongkorn following his father’s death, student activist Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa was charged with allegedly sharing a BBC profile of the new king profile on Facebook. He remains in jail after being denied bail repeatedly.

Since taking power in 2014, a junta led by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha sharply increased prosecutions over perceived slights against the monarchy. In July 2016, Thai police questioned Marshall’s wife after he posted to social media photos of the then-crown prince, even though the photos were taken at a German airport and Marshall does not live in Thailand.

Record-breaking 25- and 30-year sentences have been handed down for people over Facebook posts, while a man found himself arrested for making sarcastic comments about Bhumibol’s late dog. Many convictions are not made public because Thai journalists censor themselves when reporting cases to avoid falling foul of the law.


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