Thailand to sue YouTube Web site over video clip

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BANGKOK,
Thailand – The Thai government plans to sue a popular video-sharing
Internet site where someone posted a short clip earlier this year
deemed insulting to the country’s much-revered monarch, an official
said Friday.

The
government blocked access to YouTube on April 4 after it turned down a
request to remove the contentious 44-second video, which shows
provocative graffitti-like elements painted over a slideshow of
photographs of 79-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Sitthichai Phokai-udom, the minister of information and
communications technology, told The Associated Press that a suit would
be lodged with a Thai court next week on charges of lese majeste, or
offense against the monarchy, which is a crime in Thailand.

The minister said refusal to remove the clip on grounds of
free flow of communication was total hypocrisy’ since the YouTube
owners Google censored their operation to gain access to the market in China.

Thailand is a fairly small country and not the economic or military
powerhouse, so we are at the mercy of the greedy businessman in
America,’ he said.

He said the legal action was a cultural issue, not a political
one, because the majority of the Thai people feel deeply insulted by
this video clip.’

One part of the clip juxtaposes pictures of feet over the
king’s image _ a major taboo in a culture where feet are considered
extremely dirty and offensive. The soundtrack is the Thai national
anthem.

Thai authorities take insults to the king extremely seriously.
A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in jail in March in the northern
Thai city of Chiang Mai after he defaced posters of the king during a drinking binge. He was later pardoned and deported.

Critics have accused the current government of blocking Web sites criticizing the September coup that overthrew then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sitthichai earlier said he had ordered fewer than 10 sites blocked
since taking office late last year, either because the site was
insulting to the monarchy, was pornographic, or called for public
political protests, which are illegal under martial law proclaimed
after last year’s coup.

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