Thailand’s military government warned women on Monday against posting ‘selfie’ photos of the lower half of their breasts – a social media trend that has gone viral – saying their actions could violate the country’s computer crime laws.
Similar to the popular “sideboob” shot, which arguably hit its peak in 2012 and was subsequently banned from the photo-sharing site Instagram, the #underboob photo and hashtag is nothing new. A quick internet search shows most of the #underboob discussion on the web happened back in 2013.
Until today, of course.
The culture ministry said offenders faced up to five years in jail, but did not say how they would identify the culprits.
“When people take these ‘underboob selfies’ no one can see their faces,” ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti told Reuters. “So it’s like, we don’t know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.
“We can only warn people to not take it up. They are inappropriate actions.”
While the headline here might sound funny, it’s just the last in in a string of media censorship moves by the new Thai government. The military junta took over the Thai government last May.
Thailand’s 2007 Computer Crimes Act bans any material that causes “damage to the country’s security or causes public panic” or “any obscene computer data which is accessible to the public.”
The ministry has long been criticised for being overzealous in its censorship of films, music, television and some Western cultural practices in an attempt to preserve traditional values of a country that is also infamous of its raunchy night life.
But censorship has gotten much worse in the last year.
At the time of the military coup last May, political scientist Aim Sinpeng said in the Washington Post that “in comparison to the previous military takeover, in 2006 and 1991, the junta has taken more drastic measures to curb press freedom. The coup was no longer just about who controlled the government, but also who controlled the media.”
This January, the government, “forced a German foundation to cancel a forum discussing new restrictions on the media,” according to Al Jazeera America.
A former Thai police chief told Reuters last summer that “police will not pursue legal action against media so long as journalists are cooperative and help share news that is constructive and true. Those that spread inappropriate content may face criminal charges.”
A separate Reuters report from last June said the junta claimed to have “shut down 112 ‘inappropriate websites,’ 250 radio stations and 20 television channels since the coup.”
(Reporting By Kaweewit Kaewjinda; Editing by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Jeremy Laurence)
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