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Thailand calls on telcos and ISPs to censor information about pro-democracy protests

Selfies of rallies can score fines or land you in the slammer

Thailand has asked the nation’s telcos and internet service providers to censor communication about a wave of protests sweeping the country and made it an offence to take a selfie at protest events.

The reasons for the protests are many and complex but centre on citizens’ belief that progress from military-centric government to a more democratic system has not been as rapid as they desire, or the nation needs. The nation’s Monarch has also disrupted norms by expressing a preference for current arrangements to persist, while also taking personal ownership of royal assets felt to be owned by the public.

With COVID-19 complicating matters mightily, protestors have taken to the streets in recent months in the hope of securing change. Late last week the government declared a state of emergency that forbade gatherings of more than five people and closed public transport, restrictions that were aimed at making protests illegal and difficult to stage even if participants wished to flout the law. The government said the protests threaten the safety of public assets, national security and the safety of the monarch himself as some events took place close to the route of royal processions.

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Minister for the digital economy and society Putthipong Punnakan then announced talks with mobile carriers and ISPs to prevent dissemination of information about the protests or accounts of them created by participants.

A selfie ban followed, complete with fines of US$1,280 and the possibility of two-year jail terms. Authorities can also confiscate smartphones.

Protest organisers responded by organising more protests and advising participants not to post selfies! Indeed, at least five major protests appear to have taken place in the Thai capital Bangkok yesterday alone, with more planned. Authorities dispersed some with water cannon. ®

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