Bangkok bits: The real reason Facebook survived that lese majeste deadline

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Facebook won’t face the full force of Thai law after all; NBTC ordered to settle concession debts; Digital Economy Ministry gets more rural broadband funds

ITEM: Following NBTC Secretary-General Takorn Tantasit’s ultimatum to Facebook to remove 131 posts and pages critical of the monarchy by 10:00 on May 16 or face the full force of the law, the Thai government was forced into a humiliating climb-down when it emerged that Facebook was not given the court orders for the pages in question.

In a press conference, Takorn told reporters that Facebook is willing to cooperate with blocking … as long as there is a court order. He said that on May 15, the Digital Economy Ministry sent Facebook 34 court orders – which still leaves 97 pages on that list without what he loosely termed, “official court orders”.

In a complete change of tone, he thanked Facebook for cooperating with Thai law.

ITEM: The Office of the Auditor General has in turn given the NBTC an ultimatum to finalize the revenue due from AIS and TrueMove for their 2G concessions before the current NBTC Board expires in October.

The DPC and TrueMove 1800-MHz concessions with CAT Telecom expired in September 2013, and AIS’s 900-MHz concession with TOT expired in September 2014. However, both were repeatedly extended to prevent people being affected by the 2G shutdown, and to date, the NBTC has been unable to agree with the telco operators how much they owe the government.

ITEM: Thailand’s cabinet has approved a $435 million (15 billion baht) budget request by the Digital Economy Ministry, of which $377 million will be used to expand the low-cost rural broadband initiative, while $58 million will be used for the ASEAN Digital Hub project aimed at making Thailand the interconnection center of the region.

Under the “Pracharat” (people-and-state) broadband plan, 99 villages have already been hooked up with a fiber optic endpoint and one free Wi-Fi hotspot. A total of 24,700 villages will be connected by the end of the year. Thailand has about 75,000 villages.

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