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Facebook may sue Thailand

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Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Bangkok in recent days demanding reform of the monarchy. AFP

Facebook may sue Thailand

Facebook is planning legal action against the government for forcing it to block a page deemed critical of the monarchy, CNN reported on Monday.

“After careful review, Facebook has determined that we are compelled to restrict access to content, which the Thai government has deemed to be illegal,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business.

Facebook had been forced to block local access to the “Royalist Marketplace” page, which has one million members. News of the page, which features the Royal family, being blocked was first reported by Reuters.

CNN Business reporter Rishi Iyengar quoted Facebook as saying it has been under pressure from the Thai government to restrict certain instances of political speech, with the government threatening to launch criminal proceedings against Facebook representatives in Thailand.

Facebook said it is now considering taking legal action itself.

Iyengar said: “Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves.

“We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”

Meanwhile, Minister of Digital Economy and Society Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who Facebook said it has been in discussions with, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Under Thai law, defaming the King, Queen, heir-apparent or regent can result in a 15-year jail sentence.

But human rights groups say the law has been increasingly used as a political tool, as ordinary Thai citizens, as well as the government, can bring charges on behalf of the King.

Despite that, thousands of protesters have taken to the streets in Bangkok in recent days demanding reform of the monarchy.

Royalist Marketplace was started on April 16 by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an exiled Thai dissident based in Japan.

Pavin did not immediately respond to a request for comment from CNN, but told Reuters that Facebook was “cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand”.

THE NATION (THAILAND)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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