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Facebook Blocks Access To Thai Group Critical Of Monarchy

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look: 25 August 2020

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Pro-democracy students and their supporters dance to rap music during a protest rally in Bangkok on Sunday. Photograph: Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP

The Facebook group has approximately 1 million members.

Security (Cyber), Political // BLUF: A Facebook group that discusses the Thai monarchy has been blocked by Facebook.

The group, called 'Royalist Marketplace', has approximately 1 million members and was started by a self-exiled academic and critic of the Thai monarchy.

Group members were met with the message, “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the ministry of digital economy and society.”

The move by Facebook comes amid nearly daily protests against the military-ruled government and calls for changes to the monarchy.

Thailand carries severe penalties for criticising or defaming the king (lese-majesty) that can result in 15 years in prison.

(See Point 3 Below for Further Information)

The Daily Quick-Look for 25 August 2020

The Deciport Daily Quick-Look is your at-a-glance look at several key events and situations around the world over the last 24 hours. Each headline contains the link to its source report.

BLUF = Bottom Line Up Front.

FYSA = For Your Situational Awareness.

1. GERMANY - Security (Travel): Germany issues travel warning for Paris, Cote d'Azur regions

FYSA: Germany has issued a travel warning for Paris and the French Cote d’Azur region due to rising coronavirus infections there, the foreign ministry in Berlin said late on Monday. The foreign ministry said it was warning against unnecessary tourist trips to the Ile-de-France region, which includes the French capital, and the southern region of Provence-Alpes-Cote-d’Azur, which includes Marseille and Nice, due to the high number of infections. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

2. BELARUS - Security, Political: Belarus arrests opposition figures, calls in Nobel laureate after mass protests

FYSA: The authorities in Belarus arrested two leading opposition figures on Monday and called a Nobel laureate in for questioning, a day after thousands of people defied the army to march demanding the downfall of president Alexander Lukashenko. Two weeks after an election which his opponents say he rigged, Lukashenko has shown little sign of bringing a halt to the demonstrations, the biggest threat to his 26-year-old rule. The president, who has called the protesters “rats”, said last week he ordered police to put down any demonstrations in Minsk. But tens of thousands took to the streets on Sunday in one of the biggest demonstrations since the election, and dispersed peacefully. In a sign of the peril to an already shaky economy, several banking sources told Reuters most banks had effectively run out of foreign currency to meet surging demand from residents trying to sell the Belarusian rouble. Queues have become common at exchange points. (Reuters. See link in heading for further reading)

3. THAILAND - Security (Cyber), Political: Facebook blocks access to group criticising Thailand's monarchy

FYSA: Facebook has blocked access within Thailand to a group with 1 million members that discusses the country’s king, after the Thai government threatened legal action over failure to take down content deemed defamatory to the monarchy. The move comes amid near daily youth-led protests against the government and unprecedented calls for changes to the monarchy. The “Royalist Marketplace” group was created in April by Pavin Chachavalpongpun, a self-exiled academic and critic of the monarchy. On Monday night the group’s page brought up a message: “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the ministry of digital economy and society.” Pavin, who lives in Japan, said Facebook had bowed to pressure from the military-dominated government led by the former junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha. “Our group is part of a democratisation process, it is a space for freedom of expression,” Pavin told Reuters. “By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.” Facebook declined to answer Reuters’ questions about blocking the group. The company has said that when it receives complaints of posts violating local laws, it may restrict the availability of the content in the country. Thailand has strict lese-majesty laws that forbid defaming the king, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison. (The Guardian. See link in heading for further reading)

4. AUSTRALIA - Political, Security (Health): Victoria records 148 new coronavirus cases, eight deaths as battle to extend state of emergency looms

FYSA: Victoria has recorded 148 new cases of coronavirus and eight more deaths, as it becomes increasingly unlikely Premier Daniel Andrews' bid to extend the current state of emergency for 12 months will pass parliament. The premier confirmed on Tuesday the latest victims of the virus were two men in their 70s, four women and one man in their 80s and one woman in her 90s. Seven of those deaths are linked to outbreaks in aged care settings. The latest fatalities bring the state's death toll to 438 and the national figure to 525. It comes as crossbenchers indicated they will vote down a proposed 12-month extension to Victoria's state of emergency legislation. Mr Andrews on Monday flagged plans to rewrite the Public Health and Wellbeing Act to allow a state of emergency to last for up to 18 months. At present, the declaration can only run for six months and is due to expire on September 13 along with Melbourne's stage four lockdown and regional Victoria's stage three rules. Mr Andrews said his government would no longer be able to dictate guidelines on mandatory mask use, isolation rules and business density limits without a 12-month extension. "We've got to protect public health, there can be no economic rebuilding until we fix this problem," he told reporters. Opposition Leader Michael O'Brien said the state coalition would vehemently oppose a long-term extension. It means the Labor government will have to win the support of four upper-house crossbenchers to pass it into law if and when parliament next sits. (SBS. See link in heading for further reading)

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