ICT minister went too far with cyber closure threat

Pheu Thai Party people and the red-shirts are understandably angry with cartoonist Chai Ratchawat for his offensive remark about Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but the ICT minister's threat to shutdown websites hosting any criticism of her is too much to swallow.

  • Published: 7/05/2013 at 10:37 AM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra gives a speech on Thailand's political situation in Mongolia on April 29, 2013. (Reuters Photo)

I disagree with the use of the word "prostitute" by Thai Rath cartoonist Somchai Katanyatanan, alias Chai Ratchawat, in referring to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her controversial speech in Mongolia, deemed by critics as damaging to the kingdom’s credibility and reputation.

It is both rude and insulting to refer to a decent woman to being as bad as a prostitute, as being better than a prostitute or, in this particular case, worse than a prostitute. I am not sure whether Chai himself would like it if a member of his family was referred to in the same fashion.

Chai posted his offensive remark on his Facebook page on April 30 in a reaction to Ms Yingluck’s speech at the Community of Democracies forum in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on April 29.

It is not surprising people in the Pheu Thai Party and their red-shirt supporters were furious with the cartoonist and demanded action be taken against him. Some red-shirts went to the Thai Rath head office to protest against Chai and demanded that the publisher sack him. They have the right to do this, so as long as their actions remain with the law.

The prime minister’s legal team has filed a defamation charge with the police against the cartoonist – action the prime minister also has every right to take, to seek redress.

Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap (File Photo)

But Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap has gone overboard in threatening to shutdown websites that allow criticism of the prime minister. That makes me wonder about the minister’s understanding, or definition, of the concept of democracy and the principle of free expression.

Does he mean that all criticism – whether constructive or negative – of the prime minister should be completely prohibited on websites, and that such websites may be silenced. Can we still mock the prime minister for her inadvertent slips of the tongue - such as calling Hat Yai a province instead of a district, calling the prime minister of Malaysia the president, or using the word "overcome" instead of "welcome" in her welcome speech for former US secretary of state Hilary Clinton?

Does the minister really want the prime minister to be beyond or above all criticism?

I can only hope that the minister’s threat was just a one-off emotional outburst. After all, there is already a law to deal with such problems – that is the defamation law, both civil and criminal. There is no need whatsoever to veer off course and transgress on the principle of freedom of expression.

About the author

Writer: Veera Prateepchaikul
Position: Former Editor

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