Secondary school pupils in Thailand can now enjoy free access to the Internet - thanks to a project financed by the Bangkok Government and the Royal Family. Under the project all public and private schools will join SchoolNet, the first free Internet access network in the region, supported by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhom. The network's central server is in Bangkok, and schools can logon by dialling a special-access code from anywhere in the country. Long-distance phone charges are paid for by the Telephone Organisation of Bangkok. It spends about two million baht (HK$11 million) per month on lease lines while the Thai communications authority pays about eight million baht a year for another lease line. According to Dr Thaweesak Koanantakool, deputy director of National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre, SchoolNet is aimed at promoting the use of Information Technology as a learning and teaching tool. 'We expect teachers and students to realise the value of the Internet in the classroom. It's encouraging to see that more than 30 schools have already set up their homepages,' he said. The centre is part of National Science and Technology Development Agency under the Ministry of Science Technology and Environment. It manages the SchoolNet and provides maintenance work for its 20 branches in Bangkok and other provinces.