Search

 

Cablegate: Thai Websites, Radio Face Lese Majeste Scrutiny

VZCZCXRO0868
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #3374/01 3190827
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140827Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5031
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6509
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9200
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5361
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5055
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2509
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 5844
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003374

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/04/2018
TAGS: PHUM PGOV KPAO KJUS TH
SUBJECT: THAI WEBSITES, RADIO FACE LESE MAJESTE SCRUTINY

REF: A. BANGKOK 3350 (QUESTIONING THE UNQUESTIONABLE)
B. BANGKOK 2344 (FURTHER LESE MAJESTE ACCUSATIONS)
C. BANGKOK 1949 (LEADING UNIVERSITY)
D. BANGKOK 1662 (LESE MAJESTE ACCUSATIONS)

BANGKOK 00003374 001.2 OF 002


Classified By: ADCM Robert Griffiths, reason 1.4 (b, d)

Summary and Comment
--------------------
1. (C) The Information and Communications Technology (ICT)
Ministry and the Ministry of Interior (MOI) joined recent
Army and Police efforts against lese majeste in late October.
The ICT Ministry sought the cooperation of website editors
in self-censoring content and announced an effort to create
an expensive gateway to filter anti-monarchy postings. The
MOI directed provincial governors to monitor leaflets and
community radio stations for anti-monarchy material. Online
posters and editors skirt the limits of lese majeste by using
euphemisms to refer to members of royal family. Note: This
cable is the second in a series of three looking at lese
majeste, or offense to the monarchy, at a time at which
increasing attention is being paid to the institution and its
future. Ref A examined public reaction to recent
controversial moves by the Queen and response by the army and
police; septel will provide an update on a number of high
profile lese majeste cases.

2. (C) Comment: The recent move by the ICT Ministry to
further scrutinize anti-monarchy Internet chatter reflects a
government response to perceived more widespread criticism of
the royal family, particularly of the Queen (ref A).
Operators of websites and other online media are increasingly
concerned about measures the RTG might take against them and
are self-censoring site content to pre-empt future lese
majeste charges. As a result, critics of the monarchy are
finding less open space to voice their opinions, even
anonymously -- precisely what defenders of the monarchy
intend through more aggressive implementation of lese
majeste. End Summary and Comment.

Ministries on the Alert for Lese Majeste...
-------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) Ministry of Interior Permanent Secretary Phiraphon
Traithotsawit on October 26 directed all provincial governors
to monitor community radios and leaflets. Phiraphon urged
governors to prevent any negative action against the
monarchy. ICT Minister Mun Patanotai told the press on
October 28 that he was considering spending between $2.9
million and $14.6 million to build a ""gateway"" to monitor and
block anti-monarchy websites. In a press statement, Mun
refused to reveal the offensive sites, explaining that doing
so would encourage visitors to the sites.

...Ask websites to Self-Censor...
----------------------------------

4. (C) The ICT Ministry, the Communications Authority of
Thailand (CAT), and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) assembled
website managers of SameSky.com, Prachathai.com, Pantip.com,
Serithai.com, Chuphong.com, and nine other sites on October
30 to request their cooperation in monitoring website content
critical of the monarchy. A SameSky.com representative said
authorities asked website owners to be ""cautious and
watchful"" about content posted to their sites, urging them to
use their own judgment to determine whether or not content
was appropriate. Ministry officials warned that the RTG
would monitor content and would instruct the webmasters to
delete inappropriate content; government officials reminded
the website owners that the 2007 Computer Crime Act (CCA)
permits police to enforce Internet censorship.

5. (C) Reaction of those in attendance was mixed.
Prachatai.com Executive Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn told
us on November 7 that a Serithai.com employee had asserted to
ICT Ministry staff that website managers may not share the
views of people who post to their websites. In addition, an
employee of Pantip.com complained that a recent court order
to block that website was based entirely on criticism of
Manager Media owner Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the
anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and

BANGKOK 00003374 002.2 OF 002


had nothing to do with the royal family. Chiranuch saw a
positive side to the meeting, however, noting she now had a
contact point at the ICT Ministry, and her cooperation might
protect her somewhat from future allegations of lese majeste.

6. (C) Same Sky Magazine editor and website manager Thanapol
Eawsakul, accused of lese majeste (ref D), attended similar
meetings in the past, though not the October 30 session. He
told us that during earlier meetings, ICT Ministry officials
had required him to pledge: to co-operate with the ICT
Ministry; to delete any content offensive to the monarchy;
and to delete any content that is critical of any ""third
party."" He did not resent the ICT officials' action because,
in his opinion, the RTG, military, and anti-government
protestors forced them to hold such meetings. Thanapol's
server is based abroad, and he remained confident that his
readers would be able to utilize proxy sites to circumvent
any future ICT Ministry blocks to the site.

...And has court orders in hand
-------------------------------

7. (C) An ICT Ministry official announced at the October 30
meeting that a total of 1,500 court orders existed to block
websites, and they were awaiting an additional 600 court
orders, Chiranuch noted. (Comment: We presume that these
totals include orders to block pornographic websites and
others that may be banned for reasons other than offense to
the monarchy. End Comment.)

Euphemisms Enable Online Critique of Monarchy...
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (C) Articles on the Same Sky website utilized the moniker
""XXX"" to refer to the King, ""Mama Blue"" for the Queen,
alluding to her rumored ownership of a stolen Saudi blue
diamond, and ""O"" to refer to the Crown Prince, drawing from
the Thai word for his official title. Thanapol believed such
thinly veiled references kept him on the safe side of a fine
line that United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship
(UDD) supporters have crossed in recent public comments.
""UDD publicized in speeches, without self-censorship, what
has been spoken privately for years,"" Thanapol added, saying
that he would delete any UDD speeches posted to his site.

9. (C) Prachatai Executive Director Chiranuch indicated she
also relied heavily on shifting euphemisms to retain a
modicum of ambiguity/deniability. References to Queen
Sirikit ""went from 'Queen' to 'Q' to 'Mama Blue' to 'Fat' and
now 'Jie' (from the Chinese word for older sister),"" she
explained.

...But Constant Vigilance Required
----------------------------------

10. (C) Chiranuch told us that after the 2006 coup d'etat,
daily online visitors to Prachatai increased from 1,000 to
10,000, and that the October 7 clash between PAD protestors
and Thai police drove an increase from 15,000 to 30,000
visitors. The surge in posted comments, similar to what
SameSky experienced (ref A), required significant additional
hours of ""eye-ball"" scans to purge their sites of potentially
offensive comments.

11. (C) Chiranuch said she edited conservatively just ""to be
safe"" during the current political climate, using direct
quotes as much as possible and deleting even remotely
controversial content that had nothing to do with the
monarchy. Her request for assistance yielded 50 volunteers
who now worked in shifts to monitor the website 24-hours a
day; regular readers also alert her to suspicious first time
posters who might be provocateurs. ""We shouldn't have to do
this,"" she added, calling the current climate ""a violation of
freedom of expression.""
JOHN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC