THAILAND: New protests announced; censorship up 500%

(Hong Kong, January 17, 2007) A coalition of anti-coup groups has announced new protests against the military junta in Thailand, while another concerned about media freedom has reported a sharp increase in censorship there.

The 19 September Anti-Coup Network announced on Wednesday that it will call for street protests on January 19 and 21.

“We will not accept the interim constitution and the permanent constitution that is to be imposed by the coup leaders,” Sombat Boonngamanong, the network’s coordinator, said in a press advisory.

The protests are planned for Silom Road on Friday and from Sanam Luang to army headquarters on Sunday.

The Bangkok-based group has demanded restoration of the 1997 Constitution.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has also called for a return to the rule of law under a genuine people’s constitution.

“Thailand has been left with a gaping hole where the former constitution used to be, and no amount of effort by the military junta can fill that space,” Basil Fernando, the Hong Kong-based regional rights group’s executive director, said.

“We have said from the start and we maintain that the regime is perpetrating a fraud on the people of Thailand and the world,” Fernando said.

“It is intent not upon any sort of reform but upon a radical reversion to an earlier model of administration with the military pulling the strings,” he said.

“We don’t think that the people of Thailand will accept this,” Fernando added.

On Monday, Freedom Against Censorship Thailand (FACT) reported that between October January the number of internet websites blocked in the country has jumped by more than 500 per cent since the junta took power.

According to Ministry of Information & Communications Technology figures, as of January 11 the number of sites it blocks was 13,435, up from only 2475 on October 13, FACT said.

In addition, the Royal Thai Police block at least another 32,500 websites, and an unspecified number are blocked by the Communications Authority of Thailand, the group said.

“No identification of websites blocked has ever been disclosed to the public nor do these government agencies disclose which criteria they use to block,” it said in a press statement.

The news came at a time that the authorities have ordered blocks on all news containing references to the former prime minister and his party, among other media restrictions.

“Inevitably, the coup group is having to show more and more of its real face, which like any other dictatorship is ugly,” Fernando said.

“The figures on internet censorship speak for themselves,” he said.

“This is an area of modern communications over which the government can have very little influence, and so it is doing what all authoritarian regimes do, and is frantically trying to close down anything that it doesn’t like,” Fernando added.

“Of course, it won’t succeed in stifling opposition, and will instead just make itself look worse and excite more of a reaction for trying,” he noted.

The AHRC has itself launched a webpage listing “fictions vs. facts” about the coup, at

Document Type : Press Release
Document ID : AHRC-PL-004-2007
Countries : Thailand,
Issues : Freedom of expression,