Disrespect for monarchy a direct attack on heart of nation
The Information and Communi-cations Technology (ICT) Ministry had no choice but to block access to YouTube after its owner, Google, refused to remove a video clip that insulted His Majesty the King. The ICT Ministry approached Google to protest about the film clip, but strangely enough, they were told that the company had no policy about content deemed offensive in this country.
Julie Supun, head of global communications for YouTube, was quoted in the International Herald Tribune as saying that the Internet presented "new and unique challenges". She added that the company was "disappointed" that the site had been blocked in Thailand.
"We are currently looking into the matter," Supun said in a statement on Wednesday. "YouTube reaches a wide global audience and strives to provide a community where people from around the world can express themselves by sharing videos in a safe and lawful manner."
Excuse me, what law is YouTube referring to - its own? Or that of Thailand? Instead of removing the controversial clip, YouTube acted as if it has every right to carry any clip sent in without any regard for laws or issues culturally sensitive to people in other countries.
YouTube understands that freedom of expression has its limits, and a cost. It is quick to remove any pornographic videos submitted by users, but when it comes to a video clip insulting His Majesty, it allows the freedom to run wild without any respect for Thai law or the feelings of the Thai people.
I have now come to believe that we can't avoid World War III. That's because we have so many arrogant people in this world - like the people at YouTube - who like to see things through their own glasses. How many wars or killings have happened in the past because people insulted the values and religious beliefs of others?
However, it was reported yesterday that the anonymous user who posted the video clip has withdrawn it from YouTube. But the damage has been done.
The Thai people worship the Lord Buddha and revere His Majesty. This is an established fact. Wherever you travel in this country, you'll confront these two lasting images, intertwined with each other as ultimate symbols of virtue. You can't imagine a Thailand without Buddhism and the monarchy. Without these two pillars, Thailand would be reduced to ashes.
A Swiss man has recently been sentenced to 10 years in prison because he was caught vandalising images of His Majesty the King while drunk. He knew about the lese majeste law, however he might have been under the influence of alcohol when he took the risk to break it.
This case was widely covered by the international press, which mostly had sympathy toward the Swiss man and criticised Thailand for keeping the most draconian lese majeste law on earth. Thais, however, looked at this case differently - most believed that the man was lucky not to have been trampled to death on the spot for his wild acts. I now have sympathy for the Swiss man and believe he will receive a pardon - after serving a brief time in prison for a crime he has confessed to.
Some time in May of last year, several months before the coup, a middle-level government official told me he was shocked by an underlying force at work to undermine the monarchy.
"In the past, whenever Interior Ministry officials or the police learnt about even the slightest activity to undermine the monarchy, they would get their act together and act fast. But now nobody is doing anything. They know that the monarchy is being undermined, but they are more interested to keeping their positions," he said.
Thaksin Shinawatra, then prime minister, had already used improper language on a number of occasions when referring to His Majesty. Then, he accused a "charismatic person beyond the constitution" as playing a behind-the-scenes role to undermine his electoral mandate. It was no secret that the "charismatic person" Thaksin referred to was General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council. The institution of the monarchy was drawn into this conflict with Prem by implication. One of the reasons that General Sonthi Boonyaratglin staged a coup to boot Thaksin out of office was because the former premier had been disrespectful to the monarchy. The matter has not ended.
Now, remnants of the previous regime still openly challenge the monarchy. They have set up www.tmctoday.com to mobilise a signature campaign appealing to His Majesty to dismiss Prem, who they allege to be the mastermind behind the coup. This campaign clearly shows disrespect toward His Majesty. Again, the police have been slow to react.
It is a tit-for-tat game. Last year, a campaign was launched to garner signatures to oust Thaksin. Now it is the turn of General Prem to face a similar campaign, aimed at confusing the political situation and dividing the country further.
I feel sorry about the present state of Thailand. I want the country to maintain its status as a Buddhist state and a Kingdom forever. Unfortunately, there are forces, from the outside and some from elements inside the country, trying to - intentionally or unintentionally - reduce us to a pagan, republic state.