RANGOON — Norwegian firm Telenor, which operates the second-largest telecom network in Thailand and is building a network in Burma, said it had temporarily blocked access to Facebook last month on orders of the Thai military, Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reports.
Tor Odland, head of communications at Telenor Asia, told the paper that Thailand’s National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission held a meeting with the country’s major internet service providers following the May 22 coup.
On May 28, Telenor-owned firm DTAC received instructions from the commission to block access to Facebook in Thailand for an hour in a measure that could potentially impact 10 million users, Odland was quoted as saying.
Odland told Aftenposten that the firm “laments” the measure. He said Telenor had been put in a difficult situation by the demands of the military as it has to comply with its duties as a telecom license holder, while it also seeks to respect the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
A US campaign group called Access reportedly said that the measure had violated the Thai people’s access to information and freedom of expression.
The Bangkok Post previously reported that the Thai junta shut down more than 200 websites in the days following the coup in a bid to block access to information and clamp down on dissent. The military said it would also “ask cooperation” from Facebook and other social media for censorship measures.
Telenor and Qatar’s Ooredoo were awarded two lucrative licenses in Burma last year that allow the firms to operate mobile phone services and develop telecommunications infrastructure.
Internet and mobile phone usage is expanding rapidly in Burma, which has an underdeveloped telecom sector after decades of isolation and mismanagement under the former military regime.
Facebook is hugely popular in the country and increasingly being used for activism and political campaigning. Internet and mobile phone access, and social media are likely to play an influential role in next year’s elections, which are supposed to be the country’s first and free vote in decades.