Bangkok – The Thai government said Friday it has lifted a four-month ban on YouTube after the popular video-sharing Web site's operator agreed not to allow videos that violate the country's laws or are deemed offensive to Thai people.
The government blocked access to YouTube on April 4 after its owner, Google Inc., turned down Thailand's request to remove clips seen as offensive to Thailand's revered monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
One of the controversial clips that led to the ban depicted 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 was the Thai national anthem.
Information and Communication Technology Minister Sitthichai Phokai-udom said the government lifted the ban without providing further comment. But in an interview in The Nation newspaper, he said the ban was lifted after the site operator agreed not to run video clips that violate Thai law or are "deemed offensive" in a reference to the monarchy.
Sitthichai told The Nation that YouTube had finished creating a program that would block sensitive video clips from being accessed through Thai Internet service providers.
A spokesman for Google, which is based in Mountain View, California., could not be immediately reached for comment.
"We have the deepest respect for His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej," Google wrote earlier this year 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."
The ministry in May talked of filing 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.