Updated: The Dictator and Facebook

19 10 2017

Back on 16 October, the Bangkok Post reported that “Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Thailand on Oct 30 to discuss international crime.” Some other reports mentioned digital commerce.

The Post stated that it was The Dictator who declared that”the visit was normal and the talk would focus on transnational crime cooperation.” General Prayuth added: “Let’s not speculate. It’s a chance to exchange views. And to meet [in person] is better than not…”.

All set! Facebook threatening Prayuth and Zuckerberg were going to meet and talk.

We at PPT didn’t comment on this and would have questioned why Zuckerberg would do this, even if his company has an office in Bangkok.

Then the story was expanded. The Nation reported that “security issues and digital business opportunities will likely figure prominently during talks between Prime Minister Prayut … and … Zuckerberg, … when they meet later this month in Bangkok.”

According to Deputy Government Spokesperson Lt Gen Werachon Sukondhapatipak, The Dictator was expected to raise “key issues concerning the widespread use of social media at the October 30 meeting.” In other words, he was going to grill Zuckerberg on censorship, seeking to block anti-monarchy commentary.

In amongst all the fluff about internet commerce and so on, it was clear that the junta wanted Zuckerberg’s visit to be another effort to get Facebook engaged in “protecting the monarchy.”

The the whole story crashed and burned. There was no meeting planned. A Facebook spokesman stated: “There are no plans currently for any of our senior leaders to visit Thailand…”.

We think we heard The Dictator hit the roof.It was Prayuth who stated that: “Mark Zuckerberg will come to Thailand on a business trip.” He is quoted as stating: “Mr Zuckerberg asked to meet me to discuss cooperation in preventing and solving the problems of transnational crimes, and what kind of measures and plans should be in place…”.

To date, we haven’t heard a response from the junta.

Was The Dictator infected by “fake news”? Was the junta scammed? We can’t wait for more on this story.

Update: So far we haven’t seen any comment by The Dictator or his junta. What there has been is the not unusual fuming. The Bangkok Post reports that:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha abruptly cancelled a press interview session at Government House Thursday, leaving the media confounded as to why the regime said it would host CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Bangkok on Oct 30.

Facebook claimed Wednesday it has no plans for any of its “senior leaders” to visit the country.

The session was called off despite a podium having been put in place and questions being gathered from journalists. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak was said to be on sick leave.

It was Somkid who made the initial announcement of the Facebook “meeting.” Khaosod traces the story so far.

So did The Dictator and his junta just make this up or were they scammed? We may never know as the loss of face is so great as to demand silence. The Dictator is not usually quiet, so let’s see if he fumes in public.


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