Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Financial Times: Thai Government Blocked YouTube Over Lese Majeste Video

Thailand blocks YouTube over mocking video

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok and Shawn Donnan in Hong Kong

Published: April 4 2007 07:40 | Last updated: April 4 2007 07:40

Thailand’s military-installed government has blocked the popular website YouTube over a provocative video that mocks revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, amid rising political tensions over the role of the monarchy in September’s military coup.

The government’s move to block the site late Tuesday night comes amid a rapid rise in the number of blocked websites in Thailand, as the military struggles to prevent Thaksin Shinawatra, the marketing and technology-savvy exiled former prime minister, from using the internet to reach out to his supporters, and remain in the public eye.

The move also comes at a time of mounting public controversy over the alleged role of Gen Prem Tinsulanonda, chairman of King Bhumibol’s Privy Council, in fomenting the coup that ousted Mr Thaksin.

In recent weeks, anti-coup political groups have circulated an unprecedented petition, calling on the king to remove Gen Prem, who is widely believed to have encouraged the military to move against Mr Thaksin – a belief that repeated denials by Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin, the army chief, have done little to dispel.

Thailand’s strict lese-majeste laws – which make it a serious crime to say anything deemed offensive to the prestige of the royal family – normally deters any open or critical discussion about the role, and actions, of the monarchy in Thai political life.

But analysts say the common perception of Gen Prem’s deep involvement in the coup – and the suspicion that it also had the King’s blessing - has emboldened some angry Thais to challenge the long-held taboo, which is normally enforced with the threat of lengthy prison sentences.

The YouTube video that almost certainly prompted authorities to block the site features a slide show of pictures of the king defaced with crudely drawn electronic graffiti, with the images set to tinny martial music.

It is rare on the site in that most of the videos posted about the king feature reverent images or benign footage of ceremonies marking either his 60th anniversary in power or his recent 79th birthday.

The video, which has been viewed more than 6,000 times since it was posted on March 29 by a user called “Paddidda,” a seemingly Thai-sounding, but actually nonsensical name, has also drawn a vitriolic response from some angry Thai users, who have demanded it be pulled off the site.

“We love our King and I know that you'll never understand something like this because you don't have King in your country and you have never met the one who could give anything for his people,” one user said in a comment posted Wednesday. “So just shut the f*** up, if you don't know the damn thing.”

But it has also prompted a debate about free speech. “Please Thais on this board, stop acting like fundamentalist shouting ‘Allah Akbar!’” one user wrote Wednesday. “We are not that, use your brain. Ranting will only hurt Thai people on the whole! I know it's not appropriate and all but would you please calm down?”

The same user said the image was likely posted by “a Thai who's been a bit drunk on free speech and what not.”

Another user said: “The king is like our father, but that much is said by so many people. I never think he is an untouchable god, but he is loved and respected. If anyone does this to pictures of your parents, you certainly won't be happy about it, right?”


Anonymous said...

The thought police again. The evident irony in a politician - *any* politician setting himself up as the moral guardian of a country is preposterous and merely reinforces the view that Thais neither deserve democracy, nor know what to do with it. A country as immature as that deserves the odious and feudal governments it has always had.

With adulthood comes freedom and responsibility, 2 halves of the same coin. But for so very many reasons, not in Thailand it seems.

If HMK really is semi-divine, as the Thais claim, then no amount of controversy or denigration can touch him. What the Thais get all in lather about is that it actually hurts their self-image, and that is a whole other thing because everyone knows Thais are pretty brainless anyway.

Fonzi said...

It is interesting that you bring this up. I was thinking about this today.
If you are truly a Buddhist, the notion of lese majeste would be an absurdity.

I've read a few books by a couple Thai monks who are outspoken about a lot of stupid Thai social conventions, which are contrary to basic dhamma teachings.

hobby said...

I've seen the video - it's childish in it's production values, and hopefully it was made and posted by an immature mind.

If it was not made by a child, then it is a very sinister act because posting such a video risks inflaming the country - what sort of person would wish for that outcome?

fall said...

I have not seen the video, but in my opinion, this is a really stupid act by ICT.
The ICT should do their work by investigating who post the video and bring him/her to thai justice(like Jufer?). Or may be letting this one go would be unfair to the guy?

By blocking the whole site for one video is basically the government deciding what the thai people are capable of watching, and that is facist in my book(yes, so does blocking movie and book). How can the people be educated if they do not know both side of view.

Anonymous said...

Fonzi, you are right in this, however Thai Buddhism is not real Buddhism. The Thais are insufficiently mature to be able to cope with life withiot a nyriad of Gods, demi-Gods, Angels and spirits to blame things on and to ask for help in getting good luck. Many of these entities are imports from other regions (esp China and India). From the Buddhist standpoint, these beliefs are childish and contrary to Dhamma, however the priesthood knows the value to themselves of maintaining the superstitions as they are. Pragmatism is at its most common when self-interest is also well served.

Red and White said...

Can you recommend any books by Thai monks on current affairs?

Anonymous said...

Thais really need to understand that if they wish to be relevant on the world stage, and if they wish westerners to take thenm seriously, then they really must learn to act more like grown-ups.

The only reason the King has such adulation is that Thais need to identify with him. And they need to identify with something (it is arbitrar, it could be anything), because they otherwise have no sense of identity - who they are. This is immaturity and insecurity on a par with 9 - 14 year-olds (ie pre-pubescent children) in the Western world.