Thai authorities have blocked 2,300 websites for allegedly insulting the country’s revered monarchy and are waiting for court approval to restrict another 400, the government said on Tuesday.
The blocking of the websites under harsh lese majeste laws which protect King Bhumibol Adulyadej has been criticized by rights groups and media organisations in recent months.
“The blocking of websites that disseminate content and pictures which insult the monarchy is one of the government’s crucial policies,” Information and Communication (ICT) minister Ranongruk Suwanchawee said in a statement.
“We have blocked more than 2,300 websites. We are preparing to ask for court approval to shut down an additional 400 sites and will amend the… law to increase powers of ICT officials as soon as parliament reopens,” she said.
The ministry had spent 45 million baht (USD 1.28 million) to buy equipment for a round-the-clock “war room” targeting inappropriate web sites, Ranongruk said.
The ministry would ask the ministries of justice, interior and defence to “decisively” prosecute violators, who face imprisonment and a fine for breaking the law, the minister said.
Defaming the royals in Thailand carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years but media groups say the law is often used as a political tool.
New Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva however defended the crackdown in a recent interview with a news agency, saying that there were “historical and cultural differences” with other countries.