Thailand’s military-appointed government may restore access to the popular video-sharing website YouTube.com by the end of next week, minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom said on Tuesday June 26. Dr Sitthichai will also propose to the Cabinet next Tuesday that the junta’s decree giving it the power to unilaterally block access to a website, be abolished.
“I want to abolish this law,” he told journalists grilling him on censorship of the internet at a forum at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand.
The law, giving the junta the power to censor the internet, was the military regime’s fifth official decree after seizing power on September 19, 2006.
The minister said that once the Cabinet approved its abolishment, the matter would go before the Council of State and then to the National Legislative Assembly. The whole process would take two to three months. After the law was scrapped, a court order would be required to close down or block a website.
A new computer-crime law is also going to take effect next month, under which it would be more difficult for the government to block websites. But penalties for violations would be more severe. Dr Sitthichai defended his record of blocking and closing websites, which has been the subject of furious debate in Thailand. The non-government organisation Freedom Against Censorship Thailand last month reported that 11,239 websites remain closed or blocked.
Dr Sitthichai claimed that only around 200 websites had been blocked or closed down under his tenure, of which around 180 to 190 were pornographic sites.
The blocking of YouTube for carrying clips satirising Thailand’s popular monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej was perhaps the most contentious of the current ministry’s censorship decisions—mainly because instead of blocking only the pages with the clips, the government blocked the entire website.
But on Tuesday, Dr Sitthichai said YouTube had agreed to block the offensive videos, and access to the site would be restored next week.