Dozens of Thai “Cyber Scout” volunteers are being recruited to keep an eye on the cyberspace to see if any comment is made insulting the monarchy.
The surging rebellions through internet urging to overthrow the political coup in the Middle East has probably motivated the Thai justice ministry to patrol cyberspace in search of any violations of the kingdom’s strict lese majeste rules, an offence punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
“My inspiration to be a cyber scout is the king. There are many ways to protect the institute, and this is one of them,” said Thattharit Sukcharoen, a 39-year-old administrative worker at a school in Bangkok.
“Sometimes there are just fun conversations among teenagers and they think it’s not important, but for those who love the royal institute, some comments that I see are not appropriate. I must report them to the authorities. I feel I am doing an important job. I can give back to the country,” said Sukcharoen.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world’s longest-reigning monarch and many Thais worship him as demigod.
Accusing the opposition of insulting the king or simply charging them of sedition is an easy weapon opted by the ruling elite to allow censorship and curb the freedom of media to speak against the government.
Since 2006, the Thai government has closed dozens of web pages that appeared to have attempted to insult the monarchy. It has hit youtube with charges of lese majeste for showing the king next to human feet which is an extreme offense in Thailand.
The ongoing political crisis in Thailand has motivated the country's Ministry of Information, Computers, and Telecommunications warn all users of the Internet in Thailand ‘to use the internet in the right way and avoid disseminating information that could create misunderstanding or instigate violent actions among the public', that 'all popular websites and social networks such as facebook, Twitter, hi5 and myspace [sic] will be under thorough watch,' and that 'Violators will be prosecuted by law with no compromise.'
According to a recent study by Freedom House, a US-based group campaigning for democracy and human rights, the move to patrol over the cyber-space “has provoked greater efforts by the government to control the free flow of information and commentary online... Ironically, the large-scale blocking of websites critical of the royal family has further deepened the politicization of the monarchy in the eyes of many Thais, while the increased content restrictions and legal harassment have contributed to greater self-censorship in online discussions.”
With the latest attempt to monitor the debates on internet, the Thai government has curbed people’s freedom further by controlling the network of information, it said.
Supinya Klangnarong, a web freedom activist with the Thai Netizen Network said,“I believe this project has a political motivation because this government sees the Internet as a threat. That’s why it is trying to control it.The authorities shut down websites and arrested people who posted messages that threatened state security or the monarchy but they couldn’t block them all and it also affected Thailand’s human rights image,”