Thailand threatens to sue Facebook over anti-monarchy posts

Government seeks deletion of 131 posts it considers illegal and has vowed to seek compensation

Gabriel Samuels
Friday 12 May 2017 11:38
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People posting or sharing derogatory posts about the Thai royal family face up to 15 years in prison
People posting or sharing derogatory posts about the Thai royal family face up to 15 years in prison

Facebook has been threatened with legal action by Thailand's government unless it agrees to remove posts deemed critical of the monarchy.

The country has strict "lese-majeste" laws protecting the royal family from public criticism. Those found guilty of defamation face up to 15 years in prison.

The government has given Facebook until early next week to delete 131 posts it considers illegal and has vowed to seek compensation from the social media giant if it refuses to comply.

More than 100 people found posting, sharing or even liking critical Facebook posts about the monarchy have been prosecuted since the country’s military government seized power in 2014.

Takorn Tantasith, head of Thailand’s broadcasting commission, told the Bangkok Post: “If even a single illicit page remains, we will immediately discuss what legal steps to take against Facebook. Everyone must comply with Thai laws and strictly follow rulings by local courts.”

The commission praised Facebook for removing 178 of the 309 posts it had flagged up over the past few months, but questioned why the remaining posts had not been deleted and demanded an explanation.

This week the social network banned people from watching a controversial video of Thailand’s king wearing a crop top and showing off his tattoos which had been widely circulated.

The leaked video of King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun in a shopping centre infuriated the Thai authorities, who ordered Facebook to remove it immediately.

In January a Thai welder was sentenced to more than 11 years in prison for criticising the royal family in a series of online posts. A month later, a human rights activist was put on trial for sharing a BBC Thai-language profile of the new king which had been deemed offensive.

The UN and Amnesty International have repeatedly criticised the lese-majeste laws in the past.

But the government has fiercely defended them, saying it is not incompatible with international human rights law.

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