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.
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.
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.