Thailand blocks over 2,000 Web sites

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Thai government has blocked more than 2,300 Web sites over the past year, most of them for allegedly offending the country's monarchy, a senior official said Tuesday.

The sites, more than 90 percent of which were registered abroad, were also blocked for pornographic content and threatening national security, said Sue Lo-uthai, an official at the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology.

The ministry started to block sites in 2007 — when a law went into effect giving officials the power to crack down on Internet-related crime and act against what they deem threatening content — but the numbers blocked were relatively low that year, Sue said.

"Most of the cases are lese majeste ones which have rapidly increased this year. I personally believe that the reason behind the increase is the political conflict in Thailand," he said.

The majority of Thais greatly revere 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Insulting the monarchy, a crime known as lese majeste, carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Over the past year, the country has experienced serious political upheavals which have virtually paralyzed the government for months. On Tuesday, loyalists of exiled ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra extended their two-day demonstration against a newly formed government, demanding that it call general elections.