April 4, 2007 / 9:58 AM / 12 years ago

Thailand blocks YouTube for mocking king

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand’s military-appointed government blocked access to on-line video-sharing Web site YouTube on Wednesday after its owner, Google Inc., declined to withdraw a video clip mocking the country’s revered monarch.

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej reviews a parade to mark his 79th birthday in Bangkok, December 2, 2006. Thailand's military-appointed government blocked access to on-line video-sharing Web site YouTube on Wednesday after its owner, Google Inc., declined to withdraw a video clip mocking the country's revered monarch. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom

Communications Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom told Reuters he ordered a block of the entire site, www.youtube.com, from Thailand after the ministry’s attempts to block the offending page last week failed.

“Since Google has rejected our repeated requests to withdraw the clip, we can’t help blocking the entire site in Thailand,” said Sitthichai, a telecoms professor who said he had spent most of his academic life researching eavesdropping devices.

“When they decide to withdraw the clip, we will withdraw the ban,” he said.

YouTube, which has dominated the user-generated on-line video market since it was founded in February last year, carried a 44-second clip ridiculing King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest reigning monarch revered by all 63 million Thais.

The sender of the clip, seen more than 16,000 times, was named “paddidda” and has been rudely attacked by most of 93 comments, according to the Web site.

Sitthichai said YouTube had told Thai officials it did not find the clip “offensive” so they turned down the request to remove it.

Officials at YouTube or Google, which paid $1.65 billion (835 million pounds) last year for the video-sharing site, were not available for immediate comment on the clip, a series of altered images of the King.

The most offensive was the juxtaposition of a pair of woman’s feet, the lowest part of the body to Thai Buddhists, above his head, the highest part of the body.

Criticising or offending the royal family is a crime in Thailand, where anyone found guilty of lese majeste can be jailed for between three and 15 years.

Last week, a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for defacing images of Thai royalty, a rare prison term for a foreigner.

Oliver Rudolf Jufer, 57, received 20 years for five acts of lese-majeste, but the judge reduced the term to take into account Jufer’s guilty plea. He had faced a maximum of 75 years in jail.

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