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YouTube Vs.Thailand: The Latest Round

YouTube's latest round of trouble with Thailand started in April when some YouTube user uploaded a video mocking the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) tried to get YouTube to take down the clips. YouTube and its parent company Google ignored the call. MICT decided to block out YouTube. The ban fueled more copycat videos to appear on YouTube.

The king is highly revered in Thailand, not just because of his status but also due to his involvement in development projects. People openly show their respect and affection for the king. Thai blogger Mr. Pavee explains

If any of the video uploaders have been out here in Thailand (though I strongly doubt they have), they’d notice how the king is loved by everybody here. Many shops hang his photos up on the walls and yellow flags (yellow represents the monarchy here) can be seen hung from many houses. The nation is filled with people wearing yellow shirts showing respect to the king. If a photo of the king’s face graffiti’ed on was hung up on the streets, someone will go and tear it down within a few seconds, let alone minutes. Once last year, hundreds of thousands of people wearing yellow shirts gathered to listen to his speech, the crowd was literally a kilometer long. That’s how much people love him here.

Yellow Shirt on Monday
The king was born on a Monday. Many people wear yellow on Mondays to honor the king.

Long time Thailand resident Andrew Biggs feels that blocking YouTube only helped encourage the miscreants.

I don’t care how offensive the video clip in question is. The truth is, the power of the love and devotion the Thais feel towards their King is so strong, it can never be hurt or destroyed by one stupid video clip.
But the government has banned You Tube, and in doing so, they have drawn the attention of the whole world to this situation. Now every obnoxious person in the world who has access to the internet (and believe me, that’s a LOT of people) is now busily making his/her own anti-King videos.

Early in May, MICT decided to sue Google under Thailand's lèse majesté law. Thai blogger drewkam called the legal action an “absurd” move. Drewkam reiterated the affection that the Thai people have for the king but felt the action would only end up bringing more negative publicity to Thailand. The blogger urged the MICT to get on with

other things much more important (like making my DSL connection faster!).

On May 11th, Google backed down and agreed to take down the clips.

Lost Boy wrote

It looks like Thailand won’t be suing Google after all. “We have called that off,” said Sitthichai. Google VP Kent Walker apologized to Thailand in an official letter. All defamatory clips of HMtK will be removed and soon we will all be able to watch videos of cats falling off TVs again. Will it be happily ever after? Perhaps, although I’m surprised that Google buckled to Sitthichai’s bullying tactics.

Sitthichai Pokai-udom is Thailand's minister for Information and Communications Technology. A week has passed since that news and YouTube is still inaccessible.

Youtubeblocked

Wonder what is taking the MICT so long?
A comment by Hew on New Mandala might offer some clues.

In the report I read, Google had said that half the clips had already been removed by their original posters. Of the remainder, several would be removed as offensive to HMK. The remainder on the government’s ‘offensive’ list were judged by google to be political criticisms of the government and nothing to do with lese majeste. These would not be removed.

8 comments

  • Its the Echo Chamber effect at work, and negative voices usually resonate much louder than positive ones. Its similar to how gossip gets carried from one person to another, gaining strength and sensationalism along the way.

    I hope that Thailand will restore Youtube access to its residents and citizens soon. That may blow up into another separate issue.

  • I don’t blame the Thai government for their actions, but at this point in the game, it is important to see what the outcome is and assess the fruit of our actions. Sometimes it is possible that we mistakenly “throw the baby out with the bathwater”; in this instance, I am now personally unable to update my YouTube channel, with videos on Thai insight meditation that have received thousands of views in a matter of months and numerous positive comments. Is the ban worth it? We should consider this matter carefully.

  • Walter and Noah, thanks for you comments. You know whenever when my friends message me asking me how do something with photoshop or some other software, I quickly do a search on youtube and most of the time I am able to find a video that answers their question.

    These governments don’t realize that by banning youtubes and skype (hello greedy UAE telco) and blogspot for whatever gripe they may have with these, they are also taking away access from one the lowest cost educational resource.

  • Hey, YouTube is working today… maybe they took our comments to heart ;)

  • […] they took my comment to heart… youtube is back […]

  • He said at the press conference last night held at the FCCT that YouTube will be back by next week. We’ll see if this is just another Thai politician lie.

  • […] these generative technologies is undeniably tempting for governments. When Thailand discovers that videos offensive to the Thai king are appearing on YouTube, the temptation to block the site is an obvious one. But it’s even more dangerous than […]

  • […] Thailand vs. Youtube (Yes…the Country) […]

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