(Repeating to widen distribution)
By Nopporn Wong-Anan
BANGKOK, April 4 (Reuters) - Thailand’s military-appointed government blocked access to on-line video-sharing Web site YouTube on Wednesday after its owner, Google Inc. (GOOG.O), declined to withdraw a video clip mocking the country’s revered monarch.
Communications Minister Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom told Reuters he had ordered a block of the entire site, www.youtube.com, from Thailand after the ministry’s attempts to get the offending page removed 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, who is 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 99 comments, according to the Web site.
“The king is the most revered figure in the country; he is untouchable,” said Metha Sakaowrat, president of the Information Technology Press Club — a guild of Thai IT journalists.
Sitthichai said YouTube had told Thai officials it did not find the clip offensive so turned down the request to remove it.
Officials at YouTube or Google, which paid $1.65 billion 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 to Thai Buddhists was the juxtaposition of a pair of woman’s feet, the lowest part of the body, above his head, the highest part of the body.
The blackout is the latest move by the generals who ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a bloodless coup last year against Web sites deemed offensive to either the monarch or the army, or pro-Thaksin.
One site blocked last week was running a signature campaign against the king’s top adviser, General Prem Tinsulanonda, whom anti-coup activists accuse of agitating for the putsch against Thaksin.
The coup leaders and the appointed government deny muzzling free speech.
Criticising or offending royalty is a crime in Thailand. Those guilty of lese majeste can be jailed for up to 15 years.
Last week, a Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in jail for defacing images of the king, 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.