Thaksin Web site blocked ahead of Thai court ruling

May 28, 2007

BANGKOK — 

Thailand’s army-backed government has blocked ousted premier
Thaksin Shinawatra’s Web site amid heightened tensions ahead of a court
decision on the future of two key political parties, an official said
Monday.

The Hi-Thaksin Web site can no longer be accessed in Thailand
due to “security concerns,” an information ministry spokesman said,
while declining to indicate whether the move was related to Wednesday’s
landmark verdict on the parties.

The Constitutional Tribunal decides Wednesday whether Thai Rak Thai
(TRT), the party formed by Thaksin, and the Democrat Party are guilty
of a slew of charges of electoral fraud related to annulled elections in April last year.

If found guilty the tribunal has the power to dissolve the parties and ban their executives from politics for five years.

Such a move would significantly alter Thailand’s political
landscape, analysts say, and there are fears that the verdict may spark
violence in Bangkok, prompting warnings that the junta could resort to “an emergency decree” if necessary.

Thaksin’s lawyer Noppadol Pattama said that the government feared
that his client, who remains in self-imposed exile, could use the Web
site to try and rally support.

“I think the junta is too concerned that the former prime minister will post something related to politics,” Noppadol said.

Media rights campaigners have warned of increasing censorship since last year’s coup that ousted Thaksin.

Since coming to power, the military has blacked out international
news broadcasts, seized a private television station and blocked
political Web sites.

Thailand has blocked some 45,000 Web sites, the group Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has said.

Most are pornographic, but the government also targets sites critical of the king or supportive of Thaksin.

The English-daily Nation newspaper said Monday that the
government had blocked 16 pro-Thaksin Web sites, but the information
ministry declined to confirm the report.

Hi-Thaksin currently features information about Thaksin’s trip to Russia earlier this month, and sports.

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