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Authorities threaten new penalties for Facebook users

(SEAPA/IFEX) - Thailand's government announced on Thursday 24 November that Facebook users could be charged for commenting on, sharing, or clicking 'like' on content deemed insulting to the Thai royal family.

The government has requested that the social networking giant remove over 10,000 pages, containing images or text posted from abroad, which supposedly contravene Thailand's strict lese majeste laws.

"We have informed Facebook and sought their assistance in deleting content which is offensive to our monarchy," said Thai information minister Anudith Nakornthap.

Under Thailand's lese majeste laws, or section 112 of the penal code, individuals found guilty of insulting the monarchy can be sentenced to up to 15 years imprisonment for each offence.

The minister urged users to delete material posted by others on their profiles, saying that "any user not deleting it may risk being prosecuted under the Computer Crimes Act, because they will be seen as having a role in indirectly disseminating an unlawful message."

Facebook now has over 12 million users in the country, representing close to 20 percent of the population.

In 2006, the Thai government blocked access to YouTube within the country after discovering more than 20 videos with lese majeste content. Access was eventually restored when Google agreed to make the videos unavailable to Thai users.

The ministry's announcement came just one day after the 23 November sentencing of Ampon Tangnoppakul, a 61-year old citizen accused of sending lese majeste text messages, to 20 years imprisonment.

Under the previous Abhisit government, Thailand saw a sharp increase in the number of lese majeste cases brought to trial. So far, statements made by Yingluck Shinawatra's Pheu Thai administration indicate that they will make no move to reverse this trend.

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