Did something happen before the bike event?

12 12 2018

Recently we posted a comment about Andrew MacGregor Marshal’s Facebook page, where he’d spent considerable effort linking to social media posts complaining about delays, road closures, river closures and more associated with the king’s recent cycle around Bangkok. He also wrote that the king showed up several hours late. We said we hadn’t seen that material reported elsewhere, but understood that Thailand’s media fears dire consequences if they do.

At that time, we’d noticed a comment on AMM’s post saying something odd had happened. It seems AMM investigated further, and while nothing has appeared in the Thai media, there was a security breach. And, no, the king didn’t get shot in the bum again.

Clicking the next link takes the reader to a copy of the AMM’s Facebook post, probably illegal in Thailand, and refers to a retired soldier rushing towards the king.



Further updated: Biking with the king

10 12 2018

With all the hoopla associated with the king’s latest self-promoting bike ride yesterday, we have been trying to find the usual grossly inflated figures for the number involved. As has been the case for several decades, big turnouts are important for demonstrating “popularity.”

Sadly, the reports we have seen mention “thousands” but not much else. There are also loads of photos and videos of the king in Lycra and helmet but showing relatively small numbers of other cyclists. The Nation reports “thousands of participants and spectators.” We did notice spectators along the route, but again the numbers seemed low and there was obviously a rent-a-crowd or, more accurately, order-a-crowd.

Some social media accounts say there were almost 700,000 nationwide, but that sounds more  like a Ministry of Interior fudge as it doesn’t match the vision or images.

NHK reported that “[a]bout 3,500 people joined” the ride in Bangkok. We assume tens of thousands of extra parking spots were empty.

At Andrew MacGregor Marshal’s Facebook page, he’s spent considerable effort linking to social media posts complaining about delays, road closures, river closures and more. He also writes that the king showed up several hours late. We haven’t seen that reported elsewhere, but then Thailand’s media isn’t about to discuss such matters for fear of the dire consequences.

The king appeared with daughters and concubines. We didn’t notice the usual junta limpets involved.

We guess that, despite the seemingly small crows, the regime, palace and dutiful media will crow about a rousing success.

Update 1: There’s been a death among participants in the king’s bikeathon. Sitthichai Banjerdsuk reportedly dies of a heart attack. The king is sponsoring the funeral. Without trying to be too macabre, it needs to be pointed out that his is not the first death associated with this kind of palace propaganda event (see here and here). Their “auspiciousness” is greatly reduced by such deaths.

Update 2: It turns out that there are now two reported deaths from the latest biking event.

Republicanism rises again

7 12 2018

Readers will recall the kerfuffle a little while ago over t-shirt, with some arrested, detained and maybe charged with making and distributing shirts claimed to be anti-monarchist and part of a republican movement.

On Wednesday, according to social media reports and in Khaosod, “police briefly detained two men wearing T-shirts associated with a republican group in public yesterday…”. In fact, there may have been more than two, as videos and photos are available on social media, including the Facebook page of Andrew MacGregor Marshall, show.

Thai Lawyers for Human Rights said the two were grabbed by police on the public holiday dedicated to the dead king in Lat Phrao district and taken to a local police station. Pictures appear to show republicans at MBK also.

Apparently the two detained were “released later in the day.” Police refused to comment.

The two arrested were said to be detained “while they were eating at a McDonald’s and brought to the station for interrogation.” They were detained for “wearing black T-shirts with the emblem of the Organization for a Thai Federation, an underground network that seeks to secede parts of Thailand from the kingdom to establish a republic.”

Police “warned them not to participate in any activity organized by the republicans.”

Facebook and geoblocking for the junta

1 09 2018

The Online Citizen has a post from Andrew MacGregor Marshall titled “Why is Facebook helping dictators?

He begins by noting Facebook’s “public relations campaign to counter accusations that the platform enables dangerous disinformation and hate speech,” and observes that in recent days “Facebook took some of its boldest steps yet to counter misuse of the platform, removing 18 Facebook accounts, one Instagram account and 52 Facebook pages in Myanmar, followed by almost 12 million people. Among those banned was Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces.”

Meanwhile, he notes that Facebook works with Thailand’s dictators: “Facebook continues to pander to dictators by also blocking genuine news about their activities and atrocities. While it continues to do so, Facebook cannot genuinely claim to be promoting truth and cracking down on disinformation.”

In particular, he refers to Facebook having agreed to geoblock a particular video of the soon to be king in Germany. This made it “inaccessible to anyone resident in Thailand. ” Why did Facebook do this? It says that “Thai authorities [the military junta] had produced a court order claiming the video breached the draconian lèse-majesté law — which prohibits any content deemed insulting to the monarchy — and so it was obliged to geoblock the post.”

Marshall continues, saying that “Over the past month, the Thai authorities have escalated aggressive efforts to geoblock content deemed embarrassing to King Vajiralongkorn. Twelve of my Facebook posts have been geoblocked this month alone, and posts by several exiled Thai dissidents have also been affected.”

While 2018 data is not available, Facebook posts on what it calls “Content Restrictions Based on Local Law.” It states this:

When something on Facebook or Instagram is reported to us as violating local law, but doesn’t go against our Community Standards, we may restrict the content’s availability in the country where it is alleged to be illegal. We receive reports from governments and courts, as well from non-government entities such as members of the Facebook community and NGOs….

The recent data for Thailand is in the graph appended here, drawn from the Facebook reports. It seems there’s been a spike since King Vajiralongkorn took the throne.

Found, missing, who knows?

5 06 2018

Found: A couple of weeks ago we posted that social media was buzzing about the “disappearance” of Gen Apirat Kongsompong. We cited Andrew MacGregor Marshall suggests saying that he’d been “arrested” and is at the king’s jail. Soon after, he reappeared, shaven head and all, but back at work.

Now social media rumors are that despite his period of “re-education” by the king, Gen Apirat has come through it and his chances of appointment of new Army boss are undiminished, perhaps even enhanced by his capacity to endure strict royal discipline.

Missing: In a related post, Marshall refers to a missing Army officer. Marshall states that เฉลิมศักดิ์ เรือนมงคล (Chaloemsak Ruenmongkon), had been on the run in several Southeast Asian nations before perhaps being apprehended in Malaysia and sent to Thailand.

He is thought to have been involved with an anti-junta and anti-monarchy “พิซซ่าชาวใน,” a now-closed Facebook page.

He’s gone missing and the fear is he’s “detained by the military or held at King Vajiralongkorn’s notorious punishment camp and prison at Thaweewattana Palace.”

There’s no a dreaded silence.

Who knows?: More than a week ago the police reported breaking a red shirt plot and capturing weapons. The news since then, as expected, is zilch. Perhaps the plot is by the police, against red shirts?

Further updated: Social media stories to watch

19 05 2018

Social media has come alive with two stories today. The first concerns groups of people assembling at the Rajaprasong intersection to remember the deaths and injuries that took place eight years ago. Khaosod has an early report, but those following Facebook activists will see photos of people remembering the dead. Interestingly, there’s also an impression that those remembrances are also about solidarity.

The second story is much more sketchy and written carefully. Essentially, some people are asking: Where is Gen Apirat Kongsompong? Said to be next in line to be Army commander, the impression is that he has gone missing. Ever alert, Andrew MacGregor Marshall suggests that he’s been “arrested” and is at the king’s jail.

Update 1: The Bangkok Post reports:

Yesterday, a number of red-shirts representing the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) converged outside Gaysorn Village, formerly known as Gaysorn Plaza, to remember the bloody clashes between security forces and red-shirt protesters on May 19, 2010.

Among the noted participants in the event was Phayao Akhad, whose daughter, Kamolket Akhad, a volunteer nurse, was shot dead at Wat Pathum Wanaram during the 2010 dispersal of the protesters at the temple.

We doubt the Post will report on the second social media story….

Update 2: Marshall now states that Gen Apirat has reappeared in public.

Updated: A catch-up II

28 03 2018

Continuing our catch-up:

Khaosod reports on the prosecution of red shirt leaders: Nothing unusual about that. After all, one of the central tasks of the military dictatorship has been to break up and disburse the red shirt movement, jailing leaders and repressing the movement since the 2014 military coup. The unusual bit is that this prosecution refers to events in 2009. Prosecutors accuse red shirt leaders “group of inciting unrest and an open rebellion against the government of Abhisit Vejjajiva in a April 2009 protest, which saw parts of Bangkok occupied for several days.” Political advantage is being maintained.

Reuters reports on new political blood: It says that Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit sees little prospect of winning a junta “election.” He says: “Election laws are unfavourable to us, timing is unfavourable to us, the attitude of the government is unfavourable to us…. The chance is very slim. But a little hope is better than no hope at all.” Joshua Kurlantzick is quoted: “Political success in Thailand depends on being able to placate the military and royalist elite…”.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall has a new article available: Entertaining Ananda is the “story of Britain’s bumbling efforts to win the loyalty of Thailand’s young king [Ananda Mahidol] in the last months of his life.” PPT hasn’t read it yet – it is rather long – but it looks very interesting, based on documents from British archives.

Update: The Bangkok Post reports that the 10 United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship leaders have all entered not guilty pleas in the case mentioned above. The court “set May 28 for the examination of evidence and witness lists submitted by both the accused and prosecutors. Witness testimonies are to begin in August.” The charges are “illegal assembly and stirring up unrest from Jan 31 until April 4 of that year [2009] by organising rallies at several important government offices…. They are also accused of being involved in two more serious incidents — the torching of a public bus and the hijacking of a petrol tanker that was later found abandoned during a violent street protest.” (Some aspects of the report are historically inaccurate.)