Cablegate: Internet Censorship and Youtube

DE RUEHBK #2047/01 0990952
R 090952Z APR 07






E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Internet Censorship and YouTube

1. (U) SUMMARY: The Ministry of Information and Communications
Technology (MICT) has blocked the popular website
because of video clips mocking the Thai King. In the past two
weeks, Thailand has also blocked a pro-Thaksin website and has asked
at least one major site to take down a political chat room. While
Internet censorship is not new to Thailand, there is concern by some
media advocates of an up-tick in the number of sites that have been
blocked since the September 19 coup -- an allegation disputed by
Thai officials. Conversations with Thai officials reveal a lack of
both transparency and coordination in decisions to block websites.
A draft cyber crime law under consideration will give the MICT the
legal authority it currently lacks to block sites. END SUMMARY Blocked for Mocking King...

2. (SBU) On Wednesday, April 4, MICT added Google-owned
to its "blocklist" after a user posted a video clip with crudely
drawn markings and pictures of feet superimposed over the image of
the King. An MICT officer told PDoff that, when the ministry
noticed the video, MICT Minister Sittichai Pookaiyaudom contacted to ask them to pull the offending video. According to
the MICT officer, Google responded that the user was using
"guerilla" tactics -- posting, pulling, and reposting his clips
repeatedly -- making it impossible to pull the clip. As a result,
MICT decided to block the entire site "for a few days."

3. (SBU) Since MICT blocked the site, the original user pulled the
clip after getting over 63,000 hits. However, at least ten
additional clips commenting on the video or duplicating its content
have appeared, each generating tens of thousands of hits.

...As Are Local Sites Critical of Prem

4. (SBU) Thai sites critical of Privy Council President Prem
Tinsulanonda have also run afoul of MICT. On Monday, April, MICT
asked to shut down its popular political chatroom
"Rajdamnoen." The Minister cited "several threads" that "undermined
national security." He did not clarify what topics had raised his
concerns, and said the site could re-open when "the political
situation improves." Before it was blocked, the room carried
several discussions critical of General Prem's involvement in the
coup. has also closed a chatroom devoted to discussing
constitutional drafting issues. (Comment: and the
participants in the Rajdamnoen Room are perceived as leaning towards
the deposed Thaksin regime. End comment.)

5. (SBU) MICT has also blocked other sites critical of Prem. On
Friday, April 4, Council for National Security (CNS) Chairman Sonthi
ordered police to look into pressing libel charges against, which was asking for signatures to support
Prem's "impeachment." A MICT official said they had not blocked the
site, but it is not currently accessible. (Note: Post is unable to
determine the source of the block. End note.) Likewise, sites
linked to deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra such as remain inaccessible in Thailand. The anti-coup has been blocked six times since the coup. On April
4, MICT Minister Sittichai stated that MICT was responsible for
"regulating, blocking, or terminating any electronic information
media deemed harmful to democratic reform."

Over 10,000 Sites Blocked -- Mostly Porn

6. (U) According to C.J. Heinke -- a Canadian-American assistant
lecturer at Thammasat University and founder of the local NGO
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) -- the number of blocked
websites in Thailand has risen dramatically since the September 19
coup. Heinke asserted that as of January 11, 2007, MICT's was
blocking 13,435 websites, compared to 2,475 on October 13, 2006. By
March 15, 2007, the number of blocked sites had fallen to 10,388;
Heinke surmised that the drop resulted from MICT culling duplicated
web URLs from their "blocklist."

7. (SBU) This blocklist has never been revealed to the public and is
considered sensitive by the government, although FACT has a link to
it on its website. Heinke acknowledged that the vast majority of
these blocked websites are pornographic or gambling sites. However,
it also includes a few anti-coup political sites, displays of lese
majeste, and sites supporting the southern separatists, such as the
Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) site.

MICT'S Defense

8. (SBU) In a conversation with PDoff, the American-educated MICT
Deputy Permanent Secretary Maneerat Plipat noted that Internet

BANGKOK 00002047 002 OF 002

censorship in Thailand had been ongoing since the early 1990s, and
disagreed with the notion that censorship in Thailand had increased
since the coup. She argued that censorship was worse during the
Thaksin era when there was constant pressure on Internet providers
to shut sites critical of Thaksin. Responding to FACT's
allegations, Maneerat disputed the claim that there had been a
dramatic jump in blocked websites since the coup; she opined that
most of the websites in question had been blocked under the Thaksin
era. She noted that the blocklist changes often, with new sites
added and others removed upon further review by the MICT's sole
cyber cop. Maneerat said that the blocklist is not made public out
of concern that it would cause excessive harm to individual sites
that are temporarily blocked and then removed from the list.

MICT as Cyber-Censor

9. (SBU) In principle, MICT's "cyber cop" (who declined to speak
with PDoff) receives tip-offs from the public and other government
officials about illegal or offensive web content. The MICT cyber
cop then either makes a determination of his own or refers the issue
to Manereet for review. If the site is determined to contain
illegal content, the cyber cop makes a written request to Thiland's
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block the site. Thailand does
not have standard criteria to decide whether a website should be

10. (SBU) Maneerat acknowledged that MICT has no legal authority to
block websites, and in order to block a site MICT sends a "request"
to the Thai ISPs. Although the ISPs are not required by law to
comply, MICT Minister Sittichai has threatened to reduce the
bandwidth of any ISP that fails to cooperate. The owners of the
blocked site can petition to have it unblocked by demonstrating that
it no longer has content that violates the Thai criminal code. In
addition, Maneerat acknowledged that MICT has blocked websites
itself at the level of the international information gateway into

Others Can Block?

11. (SBU) In practice, other Thai government agencies may be able to
block sites. During an Embassy-sponsored March 15 program on
Internet censorship, Maneerat said that she did not know who ordered
the website blocked, but that it "wasn't MICT."
Maneerat also said the police had pressured MICT to block websites
containing content related to the banned book "The King Never
Smiles." Maneerat added that she had not recommended that the
websites be blocked. Still, even without MICT's involvement, Thai
users cannot access the Yale University Press website containing
reviews of the book. (Note: Again, post does not know who blocked
the site. End note.)


12. (SBU) The Thai government's Internet censorship regime is
neither coordinated nor transparent. Stovepiping within different
agencies, lack of transparency in the censorship process, and
rivalries between the police and DSI only reinforces these problems.
The Thai National Legislative Assembly is expected to vote next
month on a pending cyber crime bill, which, among other things, will
vest sole legal authority in the MICT to force ISPs to block
websites. Later this month, Public Affairs Section will host two
meetings for members of the Special Committee charged with reviewing
the draft bill. They wish to study the U.S. experience in cyber
crime law enforcement. END COMMENT.


© Scoop Media

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