South Pacific Countries Crack Down on Free Speech

There must be something in the water down in the South Pacific. Following the recent news that an Australian state is considering tough new legislation banning swearing in public, comes word that Thailand has blocked 43,000 websites accused of defaming the king.

Thai authorities are using strict Internet crime laws, along with laws that make it illegal to criticize the monarchy, plus emergency powers the government granted itself following the recent outbreak of anti-government protests. The latest crackdown comes after 17,000 other websites were blocked, supposedly for national security reasons. Clothilde Le Coz from Reporters Without Borders has more context:

Blocking Twitter and Facebook is nothing new for Thai authorities. Since at least 2009, this has been a regular practice among the Thai police. So far, one blogger, Suwicha Thakor, has been jailed for his online activities. In April of last year, he was given a 10-year jail sentence by a criminal court in the northeast Bangkok district of Ratchada. This was for posting content online that was deemed to have insulted the monarchy. Thakor has been held in Bangkok's Klong Prem prison since January 14. [...]

The harassment of netizens is widely spread and does not stop at Thai borders. In 2006, Anthony Chai, an American citizen from California, was interrogated by Thai officials in Thailand and again later in the U.S. for allegedly insulting the monarchy in 2006. Originally from Thailand, Chai was granted U.S. citizenship in the late 1970s. He faces possible arrest if he returns to Thailand. "What if now the U.S. is allowing a U.S. citizen to be interrogated by foreign agents on U.S. soil?" he said. You can read more about Chai's case here.

With all the instability in Thailand, a feature in The Diplomat notes that many people in the region are pointing to Indonesia as a better model for democracy. But critics of the government are suffering in Indonesia, too:

Indonesia may have made significant strides on media freedoms since repealing many of the repressive Suharto-era laws that muzzled the press. But rights groups say the government is still trying to silence critics of public officials, pointing to renewed efforts to monitor the Internet as evidence that free speech remains in jeopardy.

Take, for example, the case of Prita Mulyasari—probably the best example of how uncomfortable Jakarta's elite are with online media. The housewife and mother of two spent three weeks in jail for writing an e-mail to friends complaining about the treatment she received at a private hospital.

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  • EJM||

    Concerning Indonesia, there's also this.

  • Old Mexican||

    With all the instability in Thailand, a feature in The Diplomat notes that many people in the region are pointing to Indonesia as a better model for democracy.

    There's a better model for democracy? You mean you can improve from the two wolves and a sheep discussing what to have for dinner? Gosh!

  • Old Mexican||

    Take, for example, the case of Prita Mulyasari—probably the best example of how uncomfortable Jakarta's elite are with online media. The housewife and mother of two spent three weeks in jail for writing an e-mail to friends complaining about the treatment she received at a private hospital.

    The penalty for sending e-mails complaining about a State-run hospital is even more serious: You're given Obamacare.

  • Old Mexican||

    Censorship, the refuge of a decrepit regime. Just ask the FCC . . .

  • Shannon Love||

    The Thai monarchy is very interesting and is held in great reverence by most Thais. Thailand was the only south Asia region to escape colonization largely owing to strength and competence of the royal family and their government. Later the royal family would fend off both communism and the worst excesses of military governments.

    I image all this makes it easy justify censorship on the grounds of protecting the dignity of the monarchy. Given the royal family's history of relatively enlightened attitudes, I imagine they're not pleased with the government exploiting them this way. At least, I hope they are.

  • BakedPenguin||

    From what I've heard, the king is held in high regard by the people, as is his grandson. His son, however, is viewed as somewhat of a prat. He might want laws stopping people from saying nasty things about him.

  • Suki||

    There must be something in the water down in the South Pacific.

    Pretty soon it will be Obama's oil.

    The king of Thailand can kiss my tan ass right after Mohammed and Allah.

  • Apologetic California||

    Thank god I'm in a north Pacific country.

  • ||

    Thailand is in the Northern Hemisphere, you moron.

  • ||

    You forgot to add this, Coop:

    http://xkcd.com/753/

  • Zeb||

    It is also in the Indian Ocean.

  • ||

    This is one of the few forums where you can claim S. Africa was better off with Apartheid:

    Ten years after Apartheid (1994-2004): The Raw Facts

    Here are the things you will never see in the major news media regarding post-apartheid South Africa:

    # In 10 years 1+ million South Africans, mostly blacks, lost their jobs due to the ANC's creeping socialism.

    # Unemployment is at a staggering 45%+ - much worse than under white rule & worse than the 30% unemployment in the USA during the Great Depression.

    # 1 million whites stand to lose their jobs in the coming years to Affirmative Action programs.

    # 1,450+ White commercial farmers have been murdered by black thugs and our food production is being threatened by "Land Reform".

    # They say that by 2014, 30% of commercial farmland now owned by Whites will be owned by Blacks (though I think it will happen much sooner & on a much bigger scale).

    # 115,000 land claims by Blacks have been processed so far - and millions of hectares of land have been handed over to them.

    # There are farms in South Africa, which were prosperous when run by Whites, that were handed over to Blacks. These farms then collapsed after 2 years of black management and are now derelict.

    # South Africa is the rape capital of the world... it is conservatively estimated that we have 50,000 rapes per year.

    # 21,500 children were raped in 2000.

    # 40% of rape survivors are under 18.

    # 1,231 children under 5 were raped in 13 months by blacks believing in AIDS myths. Many babies who are raped die.

    # South Africa is now an international drug-smuggling route, comparable to Colombia.

    # We export cannabis grown overwhelmingly by Blacks.

    # 150-200 policemen are shot dead annually by violent criminals.

    # Our police have the highest suicide rate in the world.

    # Our society is 7 times more violent (per capita) than the USA

    # Crime is so high the government put a moratorium on the release of crime statistics for a year and fudged them ever since.

    # The Democratic Alliance (conservatively) estimates there are 300,000 robberies per year

    # South African prisons are often filled to capacity (170,000+) and then thousands are let go, sometimes without being charged.

    # In January 2004, it was reported that some of the prisons are 300% over capacity.

    # In March 2004, it was reported that the prison population was 180,000.

    # Mandela's "Birthday Present" to the country (yes they used those words), was to release 9,000 criminals.

    # Murderers have been "forgiven" by our Presidents, only to murder again.

    # On 3rd March 2004, on SABC TV3 News it was announced that to "Celebrate Ten Years of Democracy" they might let thousands of prisoners go free.

    # More prisons have been built after apartheid but even that is not enough to cope with the crime wave.

    # More blacks are in our prisons after apartheid than before. (They no longer fear the Police).

    # The ANC LOVES criminals. They gave them the vote! It was announced that over 100,000 prisoners would be registered & allowed to vote

    # We had 10 years of peace, with no international sanctions and yet, the much-awaited boom never came along.

    # Our socialist economy dribbles along. GDP growth is estimated at 1.3% per annum which compares weakly with (sometimes) double digit growth rates under white rule.

    # In the Johannesburg (Gauteng) area, 80% of self-help schemes for Blacks have failed since 1994.

    # Let there be no illusions where the ANC wants to take us. They support & give money to: Zimbabwe, Haiti & DRC (Zaire) who are ruled by socialist dictators who suppress even the Blacks!

    # In the April 2004 election the ANC finally attained its goal of getting 66% vote. This means they can change the constitution at will and no other political party can stop them.

    # This is what Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe was able to do before he took 95% of the land from 4,500 white farmers.

    # Now that we are officially, and legally the latest One Party State in Africa, we will walk the path of others like Zimbabwe where eventually nobody, not even the Blacks, have any freedom any more...

  • EJM||

    This is one of the few forums where you can claim S. Africa was better off with Apartheid:

    You can claim it, but it doesn't mean that you're right. At the very least, Mr. Blundell would disagree with you.

  • ||

    Christ, it's not even really in the Pacific.

  • Suki||

    Isn't it on the Andaman Sea? A little closer to the Indian ocean than the Pacific?

  • ||

  • Suki||

    So that just makes Jesse . . . RACIST!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Can't you guys hire an intern who knows how to do a decent alt-text? Or can you teach this one to do it? Think about the skills he needs in the future.

  • ||

    Dear EJM:

    My stuff came from residents, not a visitor that went for a brief stay and then came home.

    Sure, its better now for a few people and much worse for some others. Mr. B. didn't talk to very many.

    I like to see if they have enough free speech so that a black person could get up and say he was better off under Apartheid, and be alive afterwards.

  • EJM||

    Your stuff comes from what appears to be an un-updated chain e-mail from several years ago.

    I'd rather take the word of, say, the current DA leadership.

  • johnl||

    When is Reason going to do something on Thailand? A lot going on since the cover story issue days.

  • ||

    Apparently, since Kerry Howley left, they can't even find it on a map. South Pacific? Really?

    And Indonesia being "South Pacific" is a stretch as well. I think they do have some of the same time zones, that should have been the joke.

  • Suki||

    Maybe he is confusing his show tunes?

  • ||

    "What if now the U.S. is allowing a U.S. citizen to be interrogated by foreign agents on U.S. soil?"

    Not necessarily an evil. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D....._in_the_US

  • Barack Obama||

    I like where this is headed!

  • Cass Sunstein||

    So do I, Boss!

  • South Blob Diet||

    Vietnam has banned facebook. The South East Asian region, hell, most of Asia, is pretty weak on civil liberties.

  • Suki||

    Vietnam is run by Obama's buddies! Just wait for when he takes over the internet here.

  • ||

    South Pacific Countries Crack Down on Free Speech ... Thailand has blocked 43,000 websites accused of defaming the king.

    I don't think "South" means what you think it does.

  • ||

    And the cocksucking assholes at the fucking useless FCC will soon be after my ass for goddam obscenity violations. After all, sometimes my profound, intemperate, obscenity and profanity laced diatribes are transmitted over the ostrensibly "public" airwaves. The little bastards (Think of the Children!!!) might see it and start using their fucktarded little brains on something other than Hannah Montana and the WWE for a change.

    They'll call it hate speech. You could easily find 40 senators and a couple of Supreme Court Justices who'd support such an obscene limitation on free fuckin' speech.

    Asslicking state censors never rest in their attempts to stifle freedom of expression. Not in Thailand, certainly not in Iran or Venezuela. Don't thinl for a pissing moment the the United States has put this shit behind us..

  • ||

    Luckily, we don't have any coastline on the South Pacific, so we should be safe.

  • Kolohe||

    Why do you hate American Samoa?

  • matt||

    I don't think that the Thai web censorship is news, exactly, either. I went in 2006 and tried checking the king's Wikipedia page, which was firewall-blocked, as were all references to a certain (unauthorized) biography of the king.

  • EJM||

    Maybe I should (again) plug IFEX--and, for that matter, SEAPA.

  • EJM||

    Now that I think about it, maybe it would be more appropriate to plug the OpenNet Initiative.

  • Expat||

    Duude - look at a map. Thailand is in SE Asia and Indonesia borders the Indian Ocean.
    Censorship in Thailand is nothing new, neither is it in Indonesia. Next time, check out Fiji...

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