BANGKOK (AFP) — Thai authorities banned the Grand Theft Auto computer game on Tuesday, after a disturbed teenager allegedly killed a taxi driver in a copycat crime.
Following news earlier Tuesday that the game's distributor would no longer stock the game, Thai police told AFP they had officially banned it because of "obscene" content.
"The police are empowered to immediately arrest shopkeepers if they find any GTA (Grand Theft Auto) games on sale," Ruangsak Jaritake, a police spokesman, told AFP.
"GTA is banned mainly because of its obscene content -- under the criminal law article 287 that prohibits reproduction, distribution or possession of such material," he said.
He said the police will work with the Culture Ministry to check that online gaming sites are properly licensed and will block websites which offer violent games.
Any game seller found stocking the game could be sentenced to three years in prison and a fine up to 6,000 baht (180 dollars).
Stricter penalties are in place for online sellers who could receive five years imprisonment and a 100,000 baht (3,000 dollars) fine.
An 18-year-old high school student has been charged with robbery and possession of a weapon, and could face the death penalty or life imprisonment if convicted.
Police said the teenager had become incensed when he could not afford to play the game, which encourages gamers to kill and steal cars in order to accrue points.
The teen was arrested on Sunday after police found the bloody body of a 50-year-old Bangkok taxi driver slumped in his cab.
The Grand Theft Auto computer game series, which has sold about 70 million copies, has come under fire for its graphic depiction of casual violence, drug dealing and prostitution.
The New Era Interactive Media company, the only legal distributor of the games, said earlier Tuesday it would remove the game from sale in Thailand.
"We have stopped selling Grand Theft Auto and inform all legal vendors to withdraw the game from their shelves," the company said in an online statement.
"The company will not import GTA 4 (the next in the series) to distribute in Thailand," it added.
The company also warned people to be careful about the types of computer games they buy and urged friends and relatives of gamers to watch their behaviour closely when playing.
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