PPT has been pretty open to the idea that the lese majeste activities of the Yingluck Shinawatra government had been less dastardly than the actions of the Democrat Party-led royalist government of Abhisit Vejjajiva. We have also been careful to note that the government’s lese majeste record to date was not nearly as aggressive as the previous government.
However, we have to admit that Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung is doing his best to change that. He has now been reported as stating that the “cabinet has approved a 400 million baht budget for the Information and Communication Technology Ministry (ICT) to buy equipment to lawfully tap into websites to detect lese majeste content…”. That stands as a potentially aggressive action on lese majeste.
Chalerm claims the equipment “would be used to obtain communications network data pursuant to lawful authority for the purpose of analysis or evidence.”
Chalerm also states that “since after its establishment his committee had, with an order and warrant issued by the Criminal Court, suspended broadcasting of texts and pictures deemed lese majeste on five websites after searching five locations in Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok and seizing a number of computers, mobile phones, and other communications equipment for examination.”
At the same time, Chalerm “admitted the committee might not be able to block all lese majeste messages and pictures sent from outside the country, but it would try to stop them from being spread further.”
That’s a bad sign and goes together with some recent commentary at New Mandala suggesting further actions in the pipeline. However, Ji Ungpakorn’s recent claim that “the Government’s record of abusing freedom of speech is just as bad as Abhisit’s military-backed Democrats” is an exaggeration, at least at the moment. It feels like Chalerm is set on proving Ji right.