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Issue of "The Economist" magazine withheld over critical article on Thai king

(SEAPA/IFEX) - The Thai distributor of "The Economist" banned the 6-10 December 2008 issue of the magazine because it contained an article critical of the country's monarch, news reports said.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) Bangkok bureau quoted bookseller and distributor Asia Books as saying it decided not to import this week's issue because the story on King Bhumibol Adulyadej's alleged role in politics "risks insulting the monarchy".

Under Thailand's lese majeste law, anyone who insults the king or the royal family faces a jail term of up to 15 years.

"We received excerpts of the magazine beforehand and we considered that it's sensitive and not appropriate, and also risks insulting the monarchy. So we decided not to import that edition," an Asia Books staff member told AFP.

The article, which is also available online, questioned the alleged involvement of the monarchy in the country's political affairs and its support for military interventions, the latest of which was the 2006 coup that ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai police said the importer had agreed to a self-imposed ban on the story because of its critical stance on the monarchy.

"Police have talked to importers and distributors, who agreed not to import the issue of December 6-10 because an article in the magazine criticised the monarchy," said Lieutenant General Thiradet Rodphothong, commander of Special Branch Police. "Therefore the police do not have to officially ban the magazine," he said.

"The Economist" website, which features the article, continues to be accessible and has not been blocked, according to Reuters.

The incident came on the heels of the latest political turmoil in Thailand, which led to the week-long shutdown of Bangkok's international airport by anti-government protesters, paralysing the country's economy, stranding tens of thousands of passengers, and hurting Thailand's biggest dollar-earner - tourism.

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