Telecommunications Minister Assures Internet Cafes’ Futures

More than a month after ordering Internet cafes within 500 meters of schools to shut down, Telecommunications Minister So Khun said yesterday that no cafes would be forced to close.

“We have no plans to close any cafes. We encourage more to open,” Mr. Khun said during a news conference at the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications.

“For some of those cafes that publish and disseminate pornographic pictures that students can open and view…we will only give out warnings but not close them. Those images, at times, cause violence, kidnapping and other inappropriate behavior. If we warn them and they do not listen, then the authority has the right to decide what to do,” the minister said.

The government order, issued on November 12, prohibited students and people under the age of 18 to enter Internet cafes due to the potential risks posed by pornographic websites and terrorism-related material.

The ministry’s move caused an immediate backlash from Internet cafe owners, and sparked an online campaign, “Save the Internet Cafes,” by the open-source mapping website Urban Voice.

Mr. Khun said officials from the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications met with about 100 Internet cafe owners on Wednesday.

“We explained to them that we do not plan to close them down because they help with the country’s economic growth,” he said.

But Mr. Khun said that while no Internet cafes would be closed, they must still regulate their users’ content, and if they failed to do so, the cafes would be warned and authorities would take unspecified actions.

Mr. Khun said cafe owners have proposed organizing regular meetings with him to discuss ways to better regulate Internet cafes.

“We will work with them. We meet regularly with telephone companies, so we can include [Internet] cafe owners” too, he said.

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