Thai YouTube ban sparks backlash

New clips condemn the government for trampling on freedom of expression.

    The row over images mocking the Thai king has sparked a backlash among YouTube users [AP]
    But the ban on the site has spurred YouTube users worldwide to create their own videos mocking the king or Thailand's blocking of the site, with dozens of postings currently online.
     
    Sitthichai Pookaiyaudoom, Thailand's communications minister, said a letter will be sent to YouTube's parent company, Google Inc, on Tuesday explaining why they deemed the clips offensive.
     
    "[We will explain that] our king is above politics, and this is the reason that we blocked the website because it can anger Thais," he said.
     
    "We will continue blocking YouTube until everything is corrected and all clips are deleted," he added.
     
    Sitthichai repeated earlier claims that Google was ignoring Thailand's pleas because it was a small country, and accused the US-based company of hypocrisy because it had agreed to censor its search engine in China.
     
    Attacks
     

    "This video was not made to insult the king but to get attention for serious problems with Thailand laws and people who support [these] laws"

    Creator of a video on YouTube

    Local newspapers on Tuesday condemned the government's handling of the YouTube issue which has sparked controversy around the world.
     
    "Authorities have escalated a hateful, homemade graffito into an international affair," the English-language Bangkok Post said in an editorial.
     
    "The more that (Sitthichai) publicly lashes YouTube and its users for posting attacks on the monarchy, the more such attacks will appear in myriad places."
     
    The government has also blocked a number of political websites critical of its policies, causing alarm among media watchdogs who have voiced concern about an escalating clampdown on free speech since last September's military coup.
     
    Video responses
     
    A search for "thai king" on YouTube produced more than 1,000 hits, including video responses questioning the removal of the allegedly offending clip and the user's account. 
     
    One clip showed leaders of G8 nations with their faces painted like a clown.
     
    "If I were to set foot in Thailand, I could face 15 years in prison for creating this video yet in [these countries] no one would even take a second look," the creator wrote at the end of the clip.
     
    Most clips criticised Thailand for trampling on free speech, with reference to the case of a Swiss man who was recently jailed for 10 years for vandalising portraits of the king in northern Thailand.
     
    Many related postings contained profanities and there were still several clips which depicted the Thai king with an ape's face.
     
    "This video was not made to insult the king but to get attention for serious problems with Thailand laws and people who support [these] laws," read a message on one of the clips.
     
    "In the US, one can insult Jesus or Bush or anybody else without punishment," added the creator.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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