Thailand blocks YouTube after 'insult' to king

The government of Thailand blocked access to the YouTube website because of a video it deemed insulting to the nation's monarch.

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The government of Thailand blocked access to the YouTube website because of a video it deemed insulting to the nation's monarch.

The video was taken down from the site after a day, apparently by the user who posted it, but it was unclear if access to YouTube had been reinstated inside the country.

Thailand blocked access to the site after repeated attempts to have the video removed by YouTube and its parent company, Google, according to reports. The 44-second clip shows clown faces painted over a slide show of photographs of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

"It's a serious case of lèse-majesté," Thailand's minister of information and communication technology, Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, was quoted as saying in the Wall Street Journal newspaper.

Offending the monarchy is taken seriously in the Southeast Asian country. Last week, Oliver Jufer, a 57-year old Swiss national living in Thailand, was given a 10-year jail sentence for defacing images of the king. He had faced a possible maximum sentence of 75 years.

One media group, the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), criticised the move to block YouTube. It said it was part of an effort to cut Thais off from the internet following a military coup last September, when former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his government were replaced by military appointees.

"While lèse-majesté is a culturally sensitive matter in Thailand, SEAPA views the blocking of the whole site – which is used by thousands in Thailand to express ideas and exchange information – with serious concern. ... There is a growing spectre of intolerance towards web-based media as a whole. The internet is vulnerable in Thailand, and not just when it comes to material pertaining to the king," SEAPA said on its website.

Political websites, including SaturdayVoice and Hi-Thaksin, have also been blocked, the group said.

Brazil also blocked access to YouTube briefly in the past, because of a video that purported to show a famous model cavorting on a beach. And Turkey reportedly blocked access to the site because of a video considered insulting to one of the country's founders.

(Computerworld Thailand staff contributed to this report)

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