Thailand blocks Telegram messaging app over mass anti-government protests

Thailand has ordered internet providers to block the Telegram messaging app, amid mass anti-government protests in the nation.

The local media on Monday reported after a document marked “very confidential” was leaked and shared widely on social media. Telegram is a popular secure messaging app that has been used by activists to organise protests at short notice.

The document – apparently produced by Thailand’s digital economy ministry, which has the power to censor the internet in Thailand – was sent to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission.

“The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society is seeking your co-operation to inform the Internet Service Providers and all mobile network operators to suspend the use of Telegram app,” it said.

Separately, police told reporters they had instructed the digital ministry to restrict Free Youth’s group on Telegram. The group has played a key role in organising protests in recent months.

It is unclear how effective the order will be in curtailing the democracy movement.

In a separate order, Thai police said they were investigating four well-known news organisations over their live-reporting of the protests. Prachatai, Voice TV, The Reporters and The Standard have reported extensively from the protest sites.

Thailand’s student-led democracy movement began in July, they been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha. The former army chief had seized power in a 2014 coup before he was appointed as premier after controversial elections last year.

The protests have widened in recent months to also call for curbs on the king’s powers.

Demonstrators also demand the constitution be rewritten; that the authorities stop harassing critics and royal reform are particularly sensitive in where criticism of the monarchy is punishable by long prison sentences.