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Economist not distributed in Thailand over royalty story

Last Updated: Friday, March 19, 2010 - 12:46

Bangkok: The Economist magazine will not be distributed in Thailand this week because of an article on the sensitive issue of the future of the monarchy and succession to hospitalised King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the magazine said.

It is the fourth time since December 2008 the current affairs magazine was pulled from circulation in the Southeast Asian kingdom after questioning the official neutrality of the palace or criticising the Army during Thailand`s political maelstrom.

Police said there is no formal ban of the weekly magazine.

"The Economist has decided not to distribute this issue and the paper copy has not been shipped to Thailand at all," said Chower Narula, managing director of World Media Co Ltd, which represents the magazine in Thailand.

The March 18 issue contains a story about royal succession, a sensitive subject in the country where discussion of the monarchy is limited by strict lese-majeste laws that carry a penalty of up to 15 years in jail for acts which "defame, insult, or threaten the king, the queen, the heir to the throne or the Regent”.

The story examined the subject in light of recent rallies by tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Bangkok.

King Bhumibol, the world`s longest-serving monarch and widely regarded as Thailand`s sole unifying figure through decades of political upheaval, has been hospitalised since September 19 when he was admitted for symptoms of lung inflammation and fatigue.

The palace says he has recovered but is undergoing physical rehabilitation. He has made several brief public appearances during his stay but his lengthy disappearance from public view had raised concern in the largely Buddhist country, where many of his subjects regard him as almost divine.

Most of Thailand`s 67 million people have lived under his 63-year reign, and his health is a sensitive subject because of fear succession to the throne may be complicated and may undermine the moral authority of the highly revered institution.

The king`s son and presumed heir, 57-year-old Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, does not yet command his father`s popular support.

Media in Thailand routinely exercise self-censorship in coverage of the royal family.

But the Internet has presented a challenge for authorities who since 2007 have blocked almost 20,000 Web pages deemed insulting to the monarch, said Aree Jiworarak, head of Thailand`s information technology supervision office.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, March 19, 2010 - 12:46

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