Thai website censorship jumps by more than 500% since coup!
January 15, 2007
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) has just received the Ministry of Information & Communications Technology‘s latest list of blocked websites.
The January 11, 2007 official blocklist contains 13,435 websites, an increase of more than 500% over the 2,475 sites blocked by MICT’s 13 October 2006 list, compiled following Thailand’s military coup d’etat on 19 September.
In addition to this figure, the Royal Thai Police make public that they block more than 32,500 websites directly; a further unspecified number are blocked at Thailand’s Internet gateway by the Communications Authority of Thailand (CAT). No identification of websites blocked has ever been disclosed to the public nor do these government agencies disclose which criteria they use to block.
The military coup led by Thai Army General Sonthi Boonyaratglin considered Internet censorship to be of such high priority that he signed his fifth order on 20 September to require web-blocking of sites critical of the coup. This was implemented by appointing Dr. Sitthichai Pokaiudom ICT Minister and Official Censor of the Military Coup.
MICT blocks websites by “requesting” all Thai ISPs to block, under the terms of the Telecommunications Act, from a list it compiles periodically. “Informal” email “requests” for blocking are then made to each ISP.
There are presently more than 50 commercial ISPs in Thailand and around 10 non-profit ISPs. The Act requires ISPs to comply with all government requests or face loss of operating licence or other punitive sanctions such as restriction of bandwidth.
This blocklist has not been made public since 2004 when 1,275 websites were blocked. However, it must be provided to Thai ISPs for implementation.
MICT’s 2007 budget is five billion eleven million Thai baht (THB5,011,000,000). It would appear Internet censorship is the only function of this Ministry of “Information” yet MICT discloses no information to the Thai taxpayer.
Chapter Three of the 1997 “People’s” Constitution of Thailand clearly protected freedom of communication and expression which, of course, includes the Internet. The coup has scrapped the Constitution but created a vacuum of law while a new Constitution is being discussed. It would appear the 1997 Constitution remains the foundation of Thai law until another is voted in its place.
Currently Midnight University has the only website in Thailand protected under Thai law by an Administrative Court restraining order pending their lawsuit. It should be noted that it is hardly unusual for such cases to take well over a decade to be decided by Thai courts.
Midnight University and Freedom Against Censorship Thailand have also both petitioned the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand over website censorship. FACT’s petition against censorship is still open to new signers.
In the wake of September 19, many Thai Web discussion boards and other fora were blocked or ordered to self-censor, stifling freedom of expression and freedom of association. 19sep.org, a site critical of the Thailand’s coup, has been added to MICT’s blocklist for the sixth time.
MICT’s blocklist shows a frightening increase in thought control and abrogation of civil liberties and human rights in Thailand. Although website censorship was initiated under the deposed Thai Rak Thai government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the new military government of Thailand has taken all of us to a new dimension of repression.
2007 may well be the 21st century’s 1984 in Thailand.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT)