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Thailand to sue YouTube Web site over an offensive video clip

The Thai government plans to sue a popular video-sharing Internet site where someone posted a short clip earlier this year deemed insulting to the country's much-revered monarch.

world Updated: May 05, 2007 05:35 IST

The Thai government plans to sue a popular video-sharing Internet site where someone posted a short clip earlier this year deemed insulting to the country's much-revered monarch, an official said on Friday.

The government blocked access to YouTube on April 4 after it turned down a request to remove the contentious 44-second video, which shows provocative graffitti-like elements painted over a slideshow of photographs of 79-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Sitthichai Phokai-udom, the minister of information and communications technology, said that a suit would be lodged with a Thai court next week on charges of lese majeste, or offense against the monarchy, which is a crime in Thailand.

The minister said refusal to remove the clip on grounds of free flow of communication was "total hypocrisy" since the YouTube owners Google censored their operation to gain access to the market in China.

"Thailand is a fairly small country and not the economic or military powerhouse, so we are at the mercy of the greedy businessman in America," he said.

He said the legal action was a cultural issue, not a political one, because "the majority of the Thai people feel deeply insulted by this video clip."

One part of the clip juxtaposes pictures of feet over the king's image- a major taboo in a culture where feet are considered extremely dirty and offensive. The soundtrack is the Thai national anthem.

Thai authorities take insults to the king extremely seriously. A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in jail in March in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai after he defaced posters of the king during a drinking binge.

He was later pardoned and deported. Critics have accused the current government of blocking Web sites criticizing the September coup that overthrew then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Sitthichai earlier said he had ordered fewer than 10 sites blocked since taking office late last year, either because the site was insulting to the monarchy, was pornographic, or called for public political protests, which are illegal under martial law proclaimed after last year's coup.