Bangkok: Thailand’s military government has banned its citizens contacting or sharing social media posts from three outspoken critics living outside of the country.
Under the unprecedented move, online interaction with the critics has been deemed to be a violation of the country’s Computer/Cyber Crimes Act, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years on each count.
In a statement Thailand’s Ministry of Digital Economy and Society named Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Centre for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University, Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who is living in exile in France and Scottish journalist and author Andrew MacGregor Marshall.
All three are known for frequent online commentary about Thailand.
Mr Marshall, a former Reuters correspondent in Bangkok, is a prolific user of Facebook with thousands of followers.
The ministry said it made the announcement to ensure offences are not committed intentionally or unintentionally.
It warned Thai citizens to avoid following, contacting, sharing – either directly or indirectly – the content of the critics.
Amnesty International said the Thai authorities have resorted to extreme measures that flout international human rights laws.
“The Thai authorities have plunged to fresh depths in restricting people’s freedoms of expression,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for South-East Asia and the Pacific.
“After imprisoning people for what they say both online and offline, and hounding critics into exile, they want to cut people off from each other altogether,” he said.
In March the UN Human Rights Committee raised concerns about arbitrary restrictions on human rights in Thailand.
The country’s military has acted quickly to crush any sign of dissent since staging a coup to topple democratically-elected government in 2014.
Hundreds of Thais have been held for days in military bases.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former army chief, told reporters this week that bans on political parties meeting or campaigning will probably be lifted after royal ceremonies later this year.
The military government promised to allow elections in 2015 but has not fixed a date.
According to a new constitution it could take another 19 months before a vote takes place.
Even after the elections, generals have made clear they intend maintaining a firm grip in the country that before 2014 had seen more than a decade of political upheaval.