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Disregarding NGO warnings, government reinforces campaign against lese majeste

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by the recent creation of a police taskforce within the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (MICT) to monitor websites and identify those posting content that violates Thailand's draconian lese majeste law.

"The charge of lese majeste is being used by the monarchy as a political weapon," Reporters Without Borders said. "We condemn this restriction of online free expression and we urge the government to reverse its decision to create this taskforce."

Police Lt. Gen. Somdej Khaokham, the head of the new Information Technology taskforce, said on 9 August 2009 that the government had urged the police to strictly enforce the lese majeste law against offenders.

Somdej said the new IT taskforce included webmasters and computer-literate personnel. The authorities have for several years been constantly updating equipment in order to track down those who post content regarded as offensive towards the monarchy.

All of the world's constitutional monarchies, except Japan, have laws that protect the royal family. But Thailand has the harshest. Anyone deemed to have insulted a member of the royal family can be sentenced to between three and 15 years in prison under article 112 of the criminal code concerning national security violations. The annual number of lese majeste prosecutions has increased by 1,000 per cent since the mid-1960s while the average jail sentence has more than doubled. And nowadays the law is used to censor thousands of websites.

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