Bangkok: Thailand has asked social
networking website Facebook to delete more than 10,000 pages
of content containing images or text which it claims are
"offensive" to the monarchy, a minister said on Thursday.
The news comes a day after a Thai court jailed a man for
20 years for sending four text messages deemed insulting to
the monarchy, alarming critics who say the kingdom`s strict
lèse-majesté laws hamper free speech.
"We have informed Facebook and sought their assistance in
deleting content which is offensive to our monarchy," the
country`s information minister Anudith Nakornthap said.
"There are more than 10,000 URLs which seem to insult the
monarchy," he said, adding that people should not click "Like"
or comment on "offensive" posts as this would be considered
indirect dissemination of the material.
Under Thai law, anyone convicted of insulting the king,
queen, heir or regent can face a prison sentence of up to 15
years for each offence. Even repeating details of an alleged
offence is illegal.
In the last few weeks, a number of pro-monarchy Facebook
pages have appeared, including one encouraging users to flag
content which could be in violation of lese-majeste laws.
The royal family is a very sensitive subject in Thailand
and 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world`s
longest-reigning monarch, is revered as a demi-god by many
Academics have noted a sharp increase in new royal insult
cases in recent years and rights groups have expressed concern
that the law was used to suppress freedom of expression under
the last pro-establishment government.
Observers say the new government of Prime Minister
Yingluck Shinawatra, who came to power in August, has yet to
improve the situation.
Last month a Thai-born US citizen, Joe Wichai Commart
Gordon, pleaded guilty to insulting the monarchy, in a case
that prompted the UN special rapporteur on freedom of
expression to urge Thailand to amend the lese-majeste laws.
A prominent Thai website editor is also facing up to 20
years in jail for allegedly failing to remove other people`s
online remarks deemed critical of the monarchy from her
website quickly enough in 2008.