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Authorities block website supportive of ex-PM ahead of court ruling on his party's fate

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The junta-appointed government has blocked access to a website promoting deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra one day before a politically fraught court ruling that will decide whether his political party and a rival were guilty of committing electoral fraud related to the aborted April 2006 elections.

As the whole country braces itself for a potentially controversial decision on 30 May 2007 from the Constitutional Tribunal on the future of Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party and Democrat Party, the Hi-Thaksin website ( http://www.hi-thaksin.org ) is no longer accessible in Thailand. Wire services agency AFP quoted a spokesperson from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology as citing "security concerns" for the block.

If found guilty, the two key parties may be dissolved and their executives banned from politics for five years. Fearing a backlash against television stations in the capital, Bangkok, as had happened in the weeks leading up to the April 2006 elections, soldiers were deployed on 29 May 2007 to protect the stations.

The Thai military, led by Gen. Sondhi Boonyaratka, ousted Thaksin in September 2006 and the junta-controlled government has since consistently censored news and information on the now self-exiled politician, shutting down community radio stations, websites and a satellite television channel supportive of him and warning the broadcast and print media from reporting about his speech and movements abroad.

The junta campaign to silence Thaksin and his supporters has had severe repercussions on freedom of expression, especially on the Internet, the medium which has been providing space for anti-junta sentiments from various groups, not only Thaksin supporters (see IFEX alerts of 25 May and 13 April 2007). On 9 May, the National Legislative Assembly approved the Computer-Related Offences Commission Act, which now awaits royal assent before becoming law. Though meant to prevent computer-related crimes, the law nevertheless has drastic implications on Internet freedom, with overbroad provisions and disproportionate punishments to the offence, criminalising the generation, possession, storage, dissemination of and access to prohibited information on the Internet.

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