The Thai government abruptly scrapped plans to sue Google after the U.S. company agreed to remove from a Web site video clips deemed insulting to the country’s revered king, an official said Friday.
The government blocked access to YouTube — a popular video-sharing site owned by Google — on April 4, after Google Inc. turned down Thailand’s request to remove the clips seen as offensive to King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
“We decided not to sue Google because it has agreed to cooperate in removing 12 video clips from the YouTube Web site,” said Vissanu Meeyoo, the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology spokesman.
One clip depicts shoes with the soles pointed toward the king’s image ? a major taboo in a culture where feet are considered extremely dirty and offensive. The video’s soundtrack is the Thai national anthem.
“We have the deepest respect for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej,” Google wrote in a letter to the ministry. “We likewise respect Thailand’s law and tradition and hope that we will be able to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the current controversy.”
Google is based in Mountain View, Calif.
The ministry had planned to file a criminal lawsuit against Google on charges of lese-majeste, or offense against the monarchy, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Thai authorities take the issue seriously. A Swiss man was sentenced to 10 years in jail in March in the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai after he defaced posters of the king during a drinking binge. He was later pardoned and deported.
Critics have accused Thailand’s current government of blocking Web sites critical of the September 19 coup that overthrew then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.