BANGKOK – Thai authorities on Tuesday revised their previous threat of blocking citizens’ access to Facebook after demanding that the social media platform remove content deemed to be illegal or offensive by the Asian nation’s ruling military junta.
The secretary-general of Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, said during a press conference in Bangkok that the commission would not block Facebook, a possibility it had previously indicated.
The governing military junta, which has increased internet censorship after successfully staging a coup d’etat in 2014, recently issued an ultimatum directed at the American company demanding it remove 131 items, including pages, posts and links, which were considered “dangerous” to the country’s national security interests or offensive towards the monarchy.
Last week, the Thai Internet Service Provider Association warned Facebook it would block the popular social network if it did not comply with the authorities’ demands by 10 am local time on Tuesday.
However, Takorn said Facebook had already agreed to block 34 of the 131 posts flagged by the government, and that court orders had been sought to get the remaining 97 items blocked.
“Facebook has shown good cooperation with us,” he added.
The usual procedure in these cases involves the government filing for court orders against the content it deems illegal, with Facebook removing them after verifying that they do not comply with the law.
According to authorities, 6,900 pages have been blocked in Thailand since 2015.
In April, authorities banned any online contact with three dissidents and warned there would be penalties for those who tried to get in touch with the trio, who had criticized Thailand’s Crown and junta online.
The case involved historian Somsak Jeamteearasakul, who fled to France shortly after the 2014 uprising, former diplomat and academician Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who fled to Japan, and journalist-writer Andrew MacGregor Marshall.
Thailand has strict internet laws which have been sharply criticized by human rights organizations, who say they restrict freedom of expression.
In addition, the country has some of the harshest lèse-majesté laws in the world: those found guilty could be sentenced to prison terms of up to 15 years for making statements deemed to be offensive towards the royal household.
As many as 105 people have been arrested for such crimes since the military took control of the country on May 22, 2014.
Of those detained, 49 have been sentenced to up to 30 years in prison, while the remaining 64 prisoners are currently awaiting their sentences in jail, according to human rights groups.