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    May 30, 2014

    Thai junta to talk to Google on censoring Net


    SCORES of officials aligned with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra have been removed or transferred in a widening crackdown by the military junta.

    The screws are also tightening online, as the coup leaders will send officials to Singapore and Japan in coming days to seek tighter censorship of social media from Facebook, Google and instant messenger service Line, a government spokesman said.

    Governors from 13 provinces were transferred, many in the north and north-east, where the Shinawatras' stronghold is. Deposed prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin are from Chiang Mai, in the north.

    In Bangkok, more than 10 high-ranking civil servants have been moved to inactive posts, including the permanent secretary of defence Nipat Thonglek, the report said.

    Many high-ranking police officers have also been removed from their posts for their alleged links with Thaksin, The Bangkok Post reported. The junta has installed its own officers in their place.

    Thailand's military rulers held out little hope for early elections yesterday, a week after the army seized power, saying conditions had to be right and divisions healed before there could be a return to civilian rule.

    "It is the council's intention to create the right conditions... to put Thailand on the path to free and fair elections," deputy army chief of staff Chatchalerm Chalermsukh told reporters, referring to the junta.

    He did not elaborate on what conditions were needed for an election, but said the military wanted to see reconciliation and an end to the political rift that emerged after Thaksin won his first election in 2001.

    The military has warned about the spread of what it calls provocative information on social media and has asked service providers to help tighten censorship.

    "We want to talk to them informally," Pisit Pao-In, adviser to the permanent secretary of the Information and Communication Technology Ministry, said. "We do not ask them to install any additional software. We just ask them to help filtering content."

    On Wednesday, Thai Facebook users were shocked when the site went down.

    The ministry said it had blocked access at the request of the military to halt online criticism. But the site quickly came back and a military spokesman blamed the interruption on a gateway glitch.

    But the junta said it has blocked more than 100 websites that it claimed were spreading provocative information.

    The military plans to consolidate the 15 private and state-run Internet gateways into one single national gateway to facilitate monitoring.