Thailand is pushing for the removal of 1,000 online posts, videos and other content that “breaks the law”, a minister said Wednesday, after Facebook vowed legal action over the censorship of a group discussing the monarchy.
Youth-led pro-democracy protests have swept Thailand in recent weeks, calling for political reform and frank discussion about the powerful king’s role in the country — long a taboo subject.
A private Facebook group called “Royalist Marketplace” had more than a million members posting about the royal family before it was blocked in Thailand on Monday.
The social media giant said it was “compelled” by the government to block the group, and is preparing to mount a legal challenge against the move.
But the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society now wants to obtain court removal orders relating to 1,024 more URLs on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and five other sites, minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta told reporters.
The offending pages allegedly broke the Computer Crimes Act, which has a five-year maximum jail penalty and is often used to stifle dissent online.
“We have not violated anyone’s rights… but if they break the law they will face legal action,” the minister said.
He denied that “Royalist Marketplace” was removed for political reasons, saying simply that the ministry “must protect Thailand’s cyber sovereignty”.
Moderator Pavin Chachavalpongpun — a Thai critic who was granted asylum in Japan — started a new Facebook group which so far has 730,000 members, he said.
Complying with the order “jeopardises democracy and strengthens the government’s grip on information control”, Pavin told AFP.
“If Facebook accepts the request, it would become a part of the rising authoritarian trend in Thailand.”
Super-rich King Maha Vajiralongkorn wields influence across every aspect of Thai society, supported by the arch-royalist military and the country’s billionaire clans.
Protesters are calling for reform of the royal institution, along with a complete overhaul of Premier Prayut Chan-O-Cha’s military-aligned government, which they regard as illegitimate.
Student leaders on Wednesday submitted a list of demands for the monarchy to a parliamentary committee.
So far, more than a dozen activists have been arrested on various charges, including sedition — the latest arrest coming Wednesday of prominent leader Tattep Ruangprapaikitseree.
The young leader had organised a massive demonstration on August 16, which drew more than 20,000 supporters — the biggest political gathering since the 2014 coup.