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More king-mocking videos posted on YouTube

Two more videos mocking Thailand’s revered king have appeared on YouTube, leading to a pledge from the government Friday to keep its block on the popular Web site.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Two more videos mocking Thailand’s revered king have appeared on YouTube, leading to a pledge from the government Friday to keep its block on the popular video-sharing Web site.

“The Web site will remain blocked until all the video clips are removed,” Sitthichai Pookaiyaudom, the minister of information and technology, told The Associated Press.

Those who posted the videos “want to create trouble. They have bad intentions for Thailand,” said Sitthichai, who was appointed as part of a military-installed government after a September coup.

Thailand blocked YouTube on Wednesday after the Google Inc.-owned site refused to remove a video that showed a slideshow of King Bhumibol Adulyadej juxtaposed with imagery deemed to be offensive.

Insulting the monarchy in Thailand is a criminal offense known as lese majeste. Last week, a Swiss man was imprisoned for 10 years for vandalizing portraits of the king.

The initial video, which YouTube said was withdrawn Thursday by the user who had submitted it, showed pictures of feet over the king’s head — a major cultural taboo in Thailand, where feet are considered dirty and offensive. The clip also had graffiti scrawled over the 79-year-old monarch’s face.

At least one still frame from the video remained on the site.

A variation of the withdrawn video reappeared Friday, along with a new one that showed a picture of the king superimposed with a monkey’s face. It also carried messages with profanities and said that Thailand’s “leaders are evil and hate free speech.”

Sitthichai said the government was “in talks with Google to deal with the case.”

No First Amendment
Before the appearance of the two new videos, YouTube said it was disappointed the site had been blocked in Thailand. But so far YouTube hasn’t removed such video, just as it has kept clips that mock U.S. President Bush and other public figures.

YouTube and its owner, Google, both have their headquarters in the United States, where such clips are generally protected by the First Amendment.

Some Thais have criticized the blockage as a violation of freedom of expression and another sign of censorship by the military-installed government, which took power after a coup ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Many viewers, however, were outraged by the clip and have hurled abuse at the clip’s creator, self-described as 30-year-old “paddidda” based in the United States.

Some newspaper columnists have praised the block, saying YouTube should respect cultural sensitivities and not allow videos considered illegal in Thailand.

Tech-savvy Web surfers in Thailand have been able to access the videos through proxy servers — computers outside the country that relay YouTube content back to the original viewer under the guise of a different Web site. Proxy servers are a common way of evading censorship around the world.

Earlier this year, Internet service providers in Brazil blocked YouTube for days after a judge ordered them to ensure that Brazilians can’t access a sexy video of supermodel Daniela Cicarelli after she and her boyfriend sued. The judge later reversed course and lifted the ban. By then, users in Brazil and beyond already had posted it to a slew of other Web sites not subject to the judge’s order.

A Turkish court also briefly ordered the site blocked, in that case because of videos that allegedly insulted the founder of modern Turkey.