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Facebook blocks million-strong anti-monarchy group in Thailand after government threats

FACEBOOK has blocked access within Thailand to a page that was popular among anti-monarchists after the government threatened legal action.

Group admin Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai academic based in Japan, said that the page was established to allow debate about the royal family amid huge anti-government protests in Thailand.

He said that the Royalist Marketplace group “allows Thais to express their views freely about the monarchy, from the political intervention of the monarchy to its intimate ties with the military in consolidating the king’s power.”

Criticism of the royal family is illegal in Thailand. Facebook confirmed that it had restricted access to the group from within the country on Monday, though it can still be accessed from abroad.

The social media giant said it was “compelled to restrict access to content which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal.”

“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human-rights law and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” its statement added.

Mr Chachavalpongpun is one of three key dissidents that the Thai government has warned people to stay away from.

The others are also critics of the Thai monarchy: British journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall and history professor Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who lives in self-imposed exile in France.

Near-daily protests have rocked Thailand for over a month, with some attracting more than 10,000 people.

Led by students and young people, the protest movement has used social media as a platform to organise and co-ordinate action against the militaristic government, which they accuse of being anti-democratic.

Traditional hierarchies are being challenged and the role of the royal family is being discussed in a way that was previously taboo.

“The government tried to shut [protesters] up by using legal tools such as arresting the core leaders and blocking access to my group,” Mr Chachavalpongpun said.

“If the students persist, a harsher measure might be taken — like a crackdown.”


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