YouTube Vs.Thailand: The Latest Round

Global Voices Online

Friday, May,18th,2007 @ 13:04 UTC
by Preetam Rai

Countries:Thailand
Topics:Governance, Internet & Telecoms, Law

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YouTube’s latest round of trouble with Thailand started in April when some YouTube user uploaded a video mocking the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) tried
to get YouTube to take down the clips. YouTube and its parent company
Google ignored the call. MICT decided to block out YouTube. The ban
fueled more copycat videos to appear on YouTube.

The king is highly revered in Thailand, not just because of his
status but also due to his involvement in development projects. People
openly show their respect and affection for the king. Thai blogger Mr. Pavee explains

If any of the video uploaders have been out here in
Thailand (though I strongly doubt they have), they’d notice how the
king is loved by everybody here. Many shops hang his photos up on the
walls and yellow flags (yellow represents the monarchy here) can be
seen hung from many houses. The nation is filled with people wearing
yellow shirts showing respect to the king. If a photo of the king’s
face graffiti’ed on was hung up on the streets, someone will go and
tear it down within a few seconds, let alone minutes. Once last year,
hundreds of thousands of people wearing yellow shirts gathered to
listen to his speech, the crowd was literally a kilometer long. That’s
how much people love him here.

Yellow Shirt on Monday

The king was born on a Monday. Many people wear yellow on Mondays to honor the king.

Long time Thailand resident Andrew Biggs feels that blocking YouTube only helped encourage the miscreants.

I don’t care how offensive the video clip in question
is. The truth is, the power of the love and devotion the Thais feel
towards their King is so strong, it can never be hurt or destroyed by
one stupid video clip.

But the government has banned You Tube, and in doing so, they have
drawn the attention of the whole world to this situation. Now every
obnoxious person in the world who has access to the internet (and
believe me, that’s a LOT of people) is now busily making his/her own
anti-King videos.

Early in May, MICT decided to sue Google under Thailand’s lèse majesté law. Thai blogger drewkam called the legal action an “absurd” move. Drewkam reiterated the affection that the Thai people have for the king but felt the
action would only end up bringing more negative publicity to Thailand.
The blogger urged the MICT to get on with

other things much more important (like making my DSL connection faster!).

On May 11th, Google backed down and agreed to take down the clips.

Lost Boy wrote

It looks like Thailand won’t be suing Google after all.
“We have called that off,” said Sitthichai. Google VP Kent Walker
apologized to Thailand in an official letter. All defamatory clips of
HMtK will be removed and soon we will all be able to watch videos of
cats falling off TVs again. Will it be happily ever after? Perhaps,
although I’m surprised that Google buckled to Sitthichai’s bullying
tactics.

Sitthichai Pokai-udom
is Thailand’s minister for Information and Communications Technology. A
week has passed since that news and YouTube is still inaccessible.

Youtubeblocked

Wonder what is taking the MICT so long?

A comment by Hew on New Mandala might offer some clues.

In the report I read, Google had said that half the
clips had already been removed by their original posters. Of the
remainder, several would be removed as offensive to HMK. The remainder
on the government’s ‘offensive’ list were judged by google to be
political criticisms of the government and nothing to do with lese
majeste. These would not be removed.

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