Police spend 28 million baht to target viewers of lèse majesté content

The authorities have reportedly spent 28.4 million baht on a computer programme that targets viewers of lèse majesté content.

BBC Thai reported on 23 May 2017 that the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) spent the money to procure a social network data analysis programme.

The purchase was made after the police announced a new campaign to crack down on people viewing content violating Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law. Viewers do not have to click ‘like’ or share the content to be charged.

"Watching lèse majesté content may be deemed an offence," warned Thitirat Nongharnpitak, the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) chief.

The move followed a standoff between Facebook and Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC), who threatened to block access to the most popular social network in Thailand if Facebook did not block 131 pages critical of the Thai monarchy by 10 am on 16 May.

After the deadline passed, however, Facebook was still accessible.

The Thai authorities, however, claimed that Facebook has been cooperative and has reduced the number of lèse majesté pages from 309 to less than 100.

On 11 May, Maj Gen Ritthi Intharawut, Director of the Army Cyber Centre (ACC), stated the Centre has detected 820 websites publishing lèse majesté content. 365 were hosted on Facebook, 450 on YouTube and 5 on Twitter. In April alone, the ACC detected 120 offending websites.

The ACC has subsequently limited access to these websites with the cooperation of the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, the Department of Special Investigations and the Technology Crime Suppression Division.

Article 112 of Thailand’s Criminal Code imposes jail terms of three to 15 years for each count of defaming, insulting, or threatening the King, the Queen, the Heir to the throne, or the Regent.

At least 109 people have been arrested under Article 112 since the 2014 coup d’état.