* Ministry says blocked Facebook at junta's request
* Army says social media not blocked, blames gateway glitch
* Anti-coup protests organised on social media
(Recasts, adds details)
BANGKOK, May 28 Thai Facebook users were
alarmed on Wednesday when the Information Communications
Technology (ICT) Ministry blocked access to the site at the
request of the military, but the junta blamed the brief shutdown
on a technical problem.
Tweets, email and instant messenger traffic went into
overdrive as confused users rushed to find out what had happened
to Facebook, a site used by millions of Thais but inaccessible
for about 30 minutes in the afternoon.
A senior ICT ministry official confirmed the site had been
blocked to thwart the spread of online criticism of the military
in the wake of a May 22 coup.
"We have blocked Facebook temporarily and tomorrow we will
call a meeting with other social media, like Twitter
and Instagram, to ask for cooperation from them," Surachai
Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the Information and
Communications Technology Ministry, told Reuters.
"Right now there's a campaign to ask for people to stage
protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from
social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages
about the coup," he said.
Small protests have taken place daily against the regime,
organised mainly on social media, testing the military as it
seeks to assert its influence over the media and curtail
The junta has banned gatherings, imposed a curfew, arrested
scores of activists and politicians and told print and broadcast
media to refrain from critical reporting of the military.
Foreign news channels like CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera have been
Small, brief protests have taken place in Bangkok as well as
the northern and northeastern strongholds of the ousted
government, erupting more like flash mobs than political
The military has also warned people not to spread what it
considers provocative material on social media.
As Facebook went back online, a military official quickly
appeared on television channels to reassure the public that the
site had not been blocked and normal service would resume.
A spokeswoman blamed the outage on a gateway glitch.
"We have no policy to block Facebook and we have assigned
the ICT ministry to set up a supervisory committee to follow
social media and investigate and solve problems," said Sirichan
Ngathong, spokeswoman for the military council.
"There's been some technical problems with the internet
gateway," she said, adding that the authorities were working
with internet service providers to fix the problem urgently.
The ICT ministry's hotlines were flooded with calls, and
Twitter, WhatsApp and LINE were inundated with messages.
Posing for a "selfie" photo with his mobile phone, a
policeman at a protest in downtown Bangkok said he doubted the
government would go as far as shutting off social networking
"Why would they block Facebook?," he said. "That would be
But an office worker said there was too much vitriol on
social media and blocking it would do no harm.
"If they've blocked Facebook then it's a good thing. There's
too much information and hatred on social media," said Jay
Jantavee, passing through Bangkok's bustling Victory Monument
(Reporting by Manunphattr Dhanananphorn, Panarat Thepgumpanat
and Amy Sawitta Lefevre; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by