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A Facebook Group Discussing Monarchy Was Blocked, Then Returns

Facebook blocks access to “Royalist Marketplace” group and prepares to take legal actions against the Thai government

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Chatwan Mongkol
Chatwan Mongkol
A freelance journalist based in Bangkok, Thailand covering Thai politics

THAILAND. After the Thai government pressured Facebook into taking down illegal content, a controversial group discussing monarchy with over a million members, “Royalist Marketplace,” has been blocked on 24 Aug, however, a new group returned with over 917,000 members within five days. Facebook announced it is preparing to take legal actions against the government.

“Royalist Marketplace” was a group created by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a Thai dissident living in exile in Japan. The group was founded in April 2020. Members of the group discussed and criticized the monarchy and politics in Thailand. Chachavalpongpun has been advocating for open discussions on the monarchy as criticizing the monarchy is still illegal in Thailand, and still a taboo most people do not talk about in public.

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However, anti-government protesters took the risk to talk about the topic at protests in recent months.

Chachavalpongpun created a new group called “Royalist Marketplace-Royal Market” immediately after the original one was blocked. Over 917,000 people have joined the group within five days.

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“The only things you can block are people’s eyes and ears, but the thing that you can’t block is people’s opinions,” group member Radarut Supasri told Transcontinental Times. 

Supasri was in the group that was blocked and also one of the thousands who joined the new group because she wanted to show that people will still find a way to express their opinions no matter how many groups the government blocks. Supasri said she anticipated this move because she believes the government will do everything to protect the national security.

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“During these times, it’s not odd that the government would interpret the ongoing [anti-government] protests as threats to the national security,” Supasri said. “Because the state is afraid that the people will not be under their authority…controlling the dissidents is very important under the authoritarian regime.”

Facebook saw this as a severe intervention

Access limitation happened after the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society (MDES) requested Facebook to take down illegal content relating to the monarchy.

BBC Thai reported that Facebook is preparing to take legal actions against the government as the request is violating the international human rights standards as well as affecting the people’s freedom of expression.

“Facebook’s operation has the objective to protect and reserve every internet user’s rights, and we are preparing to challenge the government request with legal actions,” the statement from Facebook Thailand read.

BBC Thai also reported that Puttipong Punnakanta, MDES minister, believes that Facebook will not sue as it has been cooperating with other requests by taking down illegal content. Not only Facebook did as requested, but YouTube, Twitter, and TikTok did as well, as the minister said.

He confirmed that the request was made within the frames of laws and culture, and it was not because of any political conflicts or the current political movement.

Read also: Facebook To Face Legal Actions From Thai Digital Ministry Over Illegal Conten

“We have to protect sovereignty,” Punnakanta said. “But this time, it’s cyber-sovereignty that works as a system.”

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the access blocking request was made through a legal process not through “dictatorship” power, as PPTV reported. He said the Thai government has to use Thai laws to fight the lawsuit if Facebook sues.

A petition submitted to the Japanese Embassy

On 25 Aug, ThaiRath reported that representatives from People Group for Nation, Religion, and the Monarchy submitted a petition to the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok demanding that the Japanese authority deal with Chachavalpongpun who is living in exile in Japan. They said Chachavalpongpun has created division in the society by encouraging people to criticize the monarchy.

Their demands were that the Japanese government must stop him from doing the activity and send him back. They also wanted Kyoto University to suspend him from being a professor there.

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