Two More YouTube Videos Mock Thai King

FOX News.com

Friday, April 06, 2007

BANGKOK, Thailand —  Two more videos mocking Thailand’s revered king have appeared on YouTube, leading to a pledge from the government Friday to keep its block on the popular video-sharing Web site.

“The
Web site will remain blocked until all the video clips are removed,”
Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, the minister of information and technology,
told The Associated Press.

Those who
posted the videos “want to create trouble. They have bad intentions for
Thailand,” said Sitthichai, who was appointed as part of a
military-installed government after a September coup.

Thailand
blocked YouTube on Wednesday after the Google Inc.-owned site refused
to remove a video that showed a slideshow of King Bhumibol Adulyadej
juxtaposed with imagery deemed to be offensive.

Insulting
the monarchy in Thailand is a criminal offense known as lese majeste.
Last week, a Swiss man was imprisoned for 10 years for vandalizing
portraits of the king.

The initial video,
which YouTube said was withdrawn Thursday by the user who had submitted
it, showed pictures of feet over the king’s head — a major cultural
taboo in Thailand, where feet are considered dirty and offensive. The
clip also had graffiti scrawled over the 79-year-old monarch’s face.

At least one still frame from the video remained on the site.

A
variation of the withdrawn video reappeared Friday, along with a new
one that showed a picture of the king superimposed with a monkey’s
face. It also carried messages with profanities and said that
Thailand’s “leaders are evil and hate free speech.”

Sitthichai said the government was “in talks with Google to deal with the case.”

Before
the appearance of the two new videos, YouTube said it was disappointed
the site had been blocked in Thailand. But so far YouTube hasn’t
removed such video, just as it has kept clips that mock U.S. President Bush and other public figures.

YouTube
and its owner, Google, both have their headquarters in the United
States, where such clips are generally protected by the First Amendment.

Some
Thais have criticized the blockage as a violation of freedom of
expression and another sign of censorship by the military-installed
government, which took power after a coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Many
viewers, however, were outraged by the clip and have hurled abuse at
the clip’s creator, self-described as 30-year-old “paddidda” based in
the United States.

Some newspaper
columnists have praised the block, saying YouTube should respect
cultural sensitivities and not allow videos considered illegal in
Thailand.

Tech-savvy Web surfers in
Thailand have been able to access the videos through proxy servers —
computers outside the country that relay YouTube content back to the
original viewer under the guise of a different Web site. Proxy servers
are a common way of evading censorship around the world.

Earlier
this year, Internet service providers in Brazil blocked YouTube for
days after a judge ordered them to ensure that Brazilians can’t access
a sexy video of supermodel Daniela Cicarelli after she and her
boyfriend sued. The judge later reversed course and lifted the ban. By
then, users in Brazil and beyond already had posted it to a slew of
other Web sites not subject to the judge’s order.

A
Turkish court also briefly ordered the site blocked, in that case
because of videos that allegedly insulted the founder of modern Turkey.


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