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Thailand Amid political crisis, a deep social divide, and the uncertainty of royal succession, Thailand’s Internet has become a contested terrain of various political views and movements. While the government has employed both legal and technological means to censor, filter, and control Internet content and communication, service providers and users resort to intermediary censorship and self-censorship, and dissidents resist the control, using evasion and circumvention tools and campaigning for freedom and transparency. Lèse-majesté, a deep-seated tradition in Thai society, has become a tool for clamping down on dissenting opinion and a basis for many online users to integrate state control into their own cyber behavior as they participate voluntarily in the surveillance and censorship of the Internet. RESULTS AT A GLANCE Filtering No Evidence of Filtering Suspected Filtering Selective Filtering Substantial Filtering Pervasive Filtering Political • Social • Conflict and security • Internet tools • OTHER FACTORS Low Medium High Not Applicable Transparency • Consistency • 372 Thailand Background Thai politics, long famous for coups and military dominance, shifted course in 2001 with the emergence of a single-party civilian government led by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party. The TRT Party won landslide victories in two general elections in 2001 and 2005, becoming the second party in 73 years to form a single-party government. Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who made his fortune from monopoly government concessions, was also the first prime minister to have completed a full four-year term in office. Despite his popularity, Thaksin is widely criticized for his authoritarian traits, outspokenness, and conflict of interest over his family business—Shin Corporation. A deal to sell a major stake in Shin Corporation to an investment firm owned by the Singaporean government mobilized a large number of the urban middle class to rally for Thaksin’s resignation,1 culminating in the formation of a royalist anti-Thaksin movement called the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), or the “yellow shirts.” This public anger and protest was a prelude to the military coup that toppled Thaksin on September 19, 2006.2 Years of political turmoil followed the coup, and Thailand’s political situation remains volatile. The rift between the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), or the “red shirts,” which supports the ousted Thaksin, and the Yellow Shirts has deepened into a social divide. The opposing forces have become a reflection of the clash between an urban middle class on one side and the rural poor on the other.3 Demands by the UDD for fresh elections resulted in a series of protests in Bangkok, KEY INDICATORS GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2005 international dollars) 7,258 Life expectancy at birth, total (years) 63 Literacy rate, adult total (percent of people age 15+) 64.9 Human Development Index (out of 169) 92 Rule of Law (out of 5) 1.6 Voice and Accountability (out of 5) 1.5 Democracy Index (out of 167) 57 (Flawed democracy) Digital Opportunity Index (out of 181) 151 Internet penetration rate (percentage of population) 25.8 Source by indicator: World Bank 2009, World Bank 2008a, World Bank 2008b, UNDP 2010, World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators 2009, Economist Intelligence Unit 2010, ITU 2007, ITU 2009. See Introduction to the Country Profiles, pp. 222–223. ONI Country Profile 373 with most of the protestors coming from outside the city. During April and May 2010, the demonstrations erupted into violence when military crackdowns were launched in order to disperse the antigovernment protestors.4 Up to 90 people were killed and almost 2,000 were injured in the political mayhem that gripped the country between March 12 and May 19, 2010.5 During the political unrest, the government issued a State of Emergency Decree on April 8, 2010, to block 36 Web sites that primarily had content sympathetic to the red shirts.6 In addition to this state-sanctioned censorship, the Internet community in Thailand also appears to censor itself. Internet in Thailand The number of Internet users in Thailand has increased exponentially from 2.3 million in 2000 to 18.3 million in 2009,7 resulting in an estimated penetration rate of 25.8 percent in 2009.8 In 2010 international bandwidth for the entire country was 156,680 Mbps, while domestic bandwidth was 721,217 Mbps.9 Nearly half of all Internet users are between 20 and 29 years old. Nearly half, 46.8 percent, of users access the Internet in educational institutions...


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