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The Monarchy of Thailand is fed up over years of Thailand’s citizens criticizing the government and Thailand traditions. And, as more people are resorting to the Internet to speak out about their beliefs that collide with ancient Thailand traditions, the government has decided to finally take action.
According to Mobiledia, the government is “realizing the serious threats the technology, especially its social and mobile elements, can bring to governance and traditional beliefs. Countries around the globe are struggling to balance their population’s embrace of mobile communications with order, public safety and streamlining government affairs, and the challenges are beginning to show.”
Because governments in Kuwait, Turkey and Thailand revolve around what they believe, as each other’s survival, they believe that the citizens of these countries are damaging to each countries beliefs and values, while also damaging foreign relations with other countries. (Who is “they,” the government or the citizens? What do you mean by “each other’s survival?” Can you rephrase this so it is more clear?)
The legal case that has grabbed international media attention revolves around Thailand resident Chiranuch Premchaiporn, a webmaster who manages a local news site, after she insulted Thailand’s king, 84-year-old Bhumibol Adulyadej. According to the ITTO (Who is the ITTO?), “Premchaiporn did not post the material, she is responsible for its message under Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act, a law which criminalizes hosting anti-monarchical content and puts content providers like Premchaiporn at risk for prison time if they fail to censor such comments quickly.” She had 11 days to remove the comments from her site but considering she failed to do so, Premchaiporn was sentenced to spend eight months in prison. Her sentencing was based on each comment that was derogatory toward the government, king, queen, or an heir.
Thailand has extremely strict consequences for those who go up against their government, with the standard penalty being a one year prison sentence for each insulting comment that is posted. However, Premachaiporn’s sentence was reduced based on her cooperation.
Thailand has extremely strict, what they call, “lese-majeste” laws which prohibits the public expression of criticism against the monarchy in any media form whether it be television, print, radio or the Internet.
According to Reporter Kendra Srivastava, “the sentence reflects Thailand’s long history of censorship, which is gaining attention and sparking controversy as technology advances in the digital age. Lese-majeste laws are also coming under fire with demands for reform due to the recent death of a 62-year-old man who was serving a 20-year jail sentence for insulting the king. A petition of almost 27,000 signatures calling for reform of the laws was delivered to the Thai parliament yesterday in response to the man’s death.”
Fortunately for other countries in Asia and the Middle East, governments are looking at ways to go about the penalties of violating censorship laws among its citizens. Rather than punishment, countries like Iran and Syria are exploring ways to limit the Internet’s reach to citizens by not allowing access to sites that can give them information to retaliate and denounce their governments as well as forbidding them to insult the religions and politics of their countries.
While Thailand is censoring the media to prevent the denouncement of their ancient beliefs that go centuries back, it might actually end up hurting the country’s future.
According to Srivastava, “Google called Premchaiporn’s sentence a threat to the potential of Thailand’s Internet economy.”
However, the real questions still remain. How far is censorship going to go? And, how far are these countries willing to risk the free speech of their citizens in order to save face for their governments? Is all this censorship worth the protests, deaths and detriment to these countries economies?