- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

BANGKOK (AP) — The Thai government continued its Internet crackdown by ordering one of the country’s most-popular chat sites to shut its political forum because of postings deemed insulting to the monarch.

Government officials said yesterday that the political chat room of the Web site Pantip.com was closed Sunday. The chat room carried frequent postings that criticized the leaders of a September coup and the current military-installed government.

The closure followed the Thai government’s order last week to block the video-sharing site YouTube.com because of videos that mocked King Bhumibol Adulyadej. YouTube’s owner, Google Inc., has refused to remove the videos but has said that it is working with the Thai government to resolve the impasse.

Insulting the monarchy in Thailand is a criminal offense known as lese majeste. Last month, a Swiss man was imprisoned for 10 years for vandalizing portraits of the king in northern Thailand.

Pantip.com initially posted a notice saying that its political forum, known as the Rajdamnoen Room, was suspended at the ministry’s request for “national security” reasons. But the message was later withdrawn.

The Web site’s founder, Wanchat Padungrat, was quoted by the Nation newspaper yesterday as saying he had found no postings that insulted the monarchy and did not understand the reason for the government’s ban.

He said the ministry did not specify which messages were offensive and implied that the military-installed government might have been offended by anti-coup postings.

The site, meanwhile, called on its members yesterday to post messages condemning Google for not removing the video clips that mocked the king. More than 1,000 people had posted messages by yesterday morning.

The YouTube ban has drawn sharp reactions from critics and proponents in Thailand. Some have criticized the ban as a violation of freedom of expression and another sign of censorship by the military-installed government, which took power after a coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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