Facebook vows legal action over forced removal of Thai group

by AFP / pic by AFP

BANGKOK • Facebook Inc said yesterday it would file a legal challenge against a Thai government order to take down a group where pro-democracy activists held discussions about the monarchy, a taboo subject in the country.

A growing tide of youth-led protests has swept Thailand in recent weeks — buoyed by anger against what many regard as an illegitimate, military-aligned government and an overly powerful royal family.

The private Facebook group, called “Royalist Marketplace”, was created in April and had more than a million members before it was taken down on Monday.

A Facebook spokesperson told AFP the network had been “compelled” by the government to remove the group.

“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” the platform said.

“We work to protect and defend the rights of all Internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”

The company did not give details of the legal action, but warned that such requirements would undermine its ability to reliably invest in the country.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha insisted his government’s actions had been completely above board.

“We took action against this (Facebook) page under our laws. We haven’t done this as a dictatorship,” he told reporters yesterday.

“Everyone must respect the law of each country…anyone who chooses otherwise, must be very careful,” he said, adding that Thailand would defend itself if any lawsuit is brought against the country.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an exiled Thai activist based in Japan and moderator for the group, told AFP it had been a place for “genuine discussion” on the monarchy, including its political role and protesters’ proposals for reforms.

Thailand’s biggest recent pro-democracy rallies have seen up to 20,000 turn out on the streets, in a movement partly inspired by the Hong Kong protests last year.