Thai panel to oversee website crackdown
Bangkok - Thailand has set up a committee to clamp down on websites considered insulting to the monarchy, a minister said on Wednesday, despite international concern over its widely-criticised lèse-majesté laws.
Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubumrung said he would chair the first meeting of the group this week, including representatives from police, the interior ministry and other related agencies.
"If these websites are based abroad and cannot be completely shut down, we will find a way to prevent them from opening here," he said, adding that he would "take this matter seriously", even if his own allies were affected.
Anyone convicted of insulting the king, queen, heir or regent faces up to 15 years in prison on each count, and discussions of the royal family and the matter of succession are consequently extremely sensitive in Thailand.
Chalerm's comments to reporters came a day after the US voiced alarm over a series of prosecutions in Thailand for speech deemed to be offensive to the monarchy.
Critics say that Thailand has increased use of its lèse-majesté legislation as a way to suppress freedom of expression, particularly under the last government, which was supported by the Bangkok-based elite.
Observers say the new administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who took power in August, has yet to improve the situation.
In November, a 61-year-old Thai man was jailed for 20 years on four counts of sending messages to the private secretary of then-prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in May 2010, the latest conviction to anger rights activists.
The EU said it was "deeply concerned" about the sentence.
A minister recently said Thailand had asked social networking website Facebook to delete more than 10 000 pages of content containing images or text that it considered "offensive" to the monarchy.