Thailand said Friday May 11 that it had reached an agreement with the video-sharing site YouTube to remove clips deemed insulting to the Thai king, but threatened to prosecute those responsible for the images.
If the videos are removed, Thailand would stop blocking the site owned by internet giant Google, minister for information and communication technology Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom told reporters.
YouTube has been banned in Thailand since a clip appeared in early April showing digitally-altered images of revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej next to a photograph of feet, considered deeply offensive here.
The number of clips lampooning the 79-year-old king mushroomed after news spread around the world that Thailand had banned the popular site.
“Google, the parent company of YouTube, sent me a letter yesterday saying that they will cooperate to remove all the clips and are in the process of doing so,” Sitthichai said.
“If Google agrees to cooperate, there is no point in pursuing any legal action at the moment,” he said.
“As soon as the clips are removed, we will unblock the website immediately.”
But Sitthichai said authorities wanted to charge the creators of the videos with lese majeste, the crime of offending a monarch, a serious offence punishable by 15 years in prison.
“Thai police will ask for information from the company to file criminal charges against those who posted the clips,” the minister said.
Thailand’s king, almost universally adored by Thais, is the world’s longest-reigning monarch, and one of the few who is still protected by tough laws that prohibit any insult against the royal family.
Earlier in the week, Thailand’s army-backed government, which came to power after a September coup, had threatened to charge YouTube with lese majeste.
In a letter released by Sitthichai, Google said it had examined 12 videos that Thai authorities found offensive.
Six had already been removed, and the company was willing to remove four others that appeared to violate Thai law, according to the letter. The company would leave the remaining two that appeared to contain political opinions.
The YouTube ban in April came a week after a Thai court jailed a Swiss man for 10 years for insulting the monarch by vandalising his portraits.
The king later pardoned the man, who was then deported from Thailand.