Neutering media

21 08 2017

The military dictatorship has generally been able to neuter the media. It got rid of most of the red shirt media soon after the 2014 military coup. It has then managed and manipulated the media. Initially, this did not require much effort as the mainstream media cheered the coup.

As the regime has gone on and on, some elements of the media have become just a little more critical of the junta’s nepotism, corruption, political repression and so on. The Dictator has shouted orders at journalists on those many occasions where he has felt the media should be doing more for his regime.

Most recently, as widely reported, the regime has been doing a little more to direct the media:

The government has ordered all television channels to promote the work of its ministers in an effort the head of its public relations division said was meant to take the focus off the prime minister.

Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the government spokesman who heads its Public Relations Department, said Thursday that he ordered each channel assigned to different ministers because he did not want the coverage to focus only on the prime minister.

“I didn’t force them. I let them choose freely but each channel must do differently,” he said after word got out and the effort was slammed as state-mandated propaganda. “Some channels even asked me to choose for them, but I didn’t because I know each channel has a different interest.”

It should be no surprise that most media enthusiastically signed up.

Dissent in the media is difficult under a military regime. One example of rare but consistent dissent by a journalist has seen Pravit Rojanaphruk who is now being punished by the military junta. He says:

It never occurred to me that what I write could be seditious.

Under military rule, criticizing the junta on social media can be construed as an act of sedition, however.

I learned this the hard way when police rang me up at the end of last month, informing me that I had been charged with sedition for a number of my Facebook postings.

That this is yet another fit-up. Each of Pravit’s posts was critical of the military junta. Yes, criticizing the junta constitutes sedition in totalitarian Thailand.

Pravit comments on the junta’s charges:

… no one really knows what constitutes sedition under military rule makes this a chilling effect and ensures greater self-censorship of anything critical of the junta in social media, however. The hazier the boundaries of what constitutes sedition, the more effective they become in instilling fear.

It may also be baffling that people who criticize the military junta, which usurped and continues to usurp power from the people, are the ones being charged with sedition. Control is more effective when fear is induced by logic-defying situations because one suspends disbelief of the illogical and absurd in Juntaland Thailand any longer. When right is wrong, wrong is right and might is right, rationality no longer gives guidance. We live not under the rule of law but under rule by arbitrary law of the junta. And logic is not necessary. Just obey. In fact, to obey without logically asking why or questioning the legitimacy, or lack thereof, of the military regime, makes control effective. Just obey. Don’t ask what’s wrong with the order imposed upon us.

On the future and on dissent, he declares:

It’s a privilege and an honor to defend freedom of expression on social media during the past three years. It is also an honor to be singled out among the select few Thais who have stood up and effectively disturbed the make-believe world of Juntaland Thailand.

We cannot defend freedom of expression if we are not willing to pay the price. The price is worth paying when one takes the long-term benefits of society to heart.





Still detained, law ignored

28 06 2017

Prachatai reports that what PPT calls the torture of lese majeste “suspects” continues unabated and is being applied to human rights lawyer Prawet Praphanukul.

For the sixth time, the Criminal Court has “refused to release a human rights lawyer facing up to 50 years in prison for royal defamation and sedition.” [Actually, as the report later states, he faces 171 years on lese majeste and sedition, but there’s a 50 year sentencing limit.]

On 26 June 2017, the Criminal Court in Bangkok renewed the pre-trial detention period for Prawet. He has now been held for two months, while the police “investigate.”

Of course, the aim is to wear down Prawet, forcing him to plead guilty.

The Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) argued that “the case’s interrogation process is already complete.” It was also argued that “prolonging of the detention is against Article 29 of the 2017 Constitution, which in brief states that suspects of crimes have the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”

The error here is in thinking that any lese majeste case will be considered on the basis of law. As many cases have demonstrated, law is strikingly absent from these acts of political intimidation and repression.

As expected, the court ignored law and statements by the prosecution that the case was investigated and kept Prawet locked up.

Prawet was one of six people arrested by police and military officers on 29 April 2017. We have no further information on the other five.

All are accused of a variety of lese majeste, computer crimes and sedition offenses for “sharing a Facebook post about the missing 1932 revolution plaque by Somsak Jeamteerasakul…”.

The claim now heard is that “Prawet allegedly posted Facebook comments asserting that Thailand should become a republic.”

Thailand should be a republic.





Junta, YouTube conspire to repress 1932

24 06 2017

The military dictatorship seems to have convinced YouTube that four minutes of Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator with Thai subtitles, denouncing dictatorship and praising the people, unity and dem0cracy, is against the law in Thailand. The video of the movie’s closing speech  was reported as geo-blocked for Thailand.

The Dictator wanted it blocked because it showed a replica of himself and was attached to the memorialization of 1932.

Try this version:

This situation shows the stupidity and preciousness of the gang of thugs monopolizing power in Thailand. And, if the reports are accurate, as we predicted, it shows the gross stupidity and/or gross profit motivation of YouTube and other online outfits that agree to geo-block anything a that comes from any ruling gang with a court order.

As we said, writing of Facebook, Thailand’s military junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools.

That is Facebook’s [and YouTube’s] problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a home delivery pizza. Thailand’s Dictator gorges and it seems YouTube cleans up for him.

This makes Facebook [and YouTube] a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate. They do the dictatorship’s work.

The full movie, without Thai subtitles, Chaplin’s Great Dictator is available in full.





Farming digital politics

15 06 2017

Many readers will have seen reports that a group described as Chinese were arrested with 474 mobile phones and 347,200 SIM cards.

The police grabbed the team in Sa Kaew and stated that this was a social media farm. The initial reports stated that the “three suspects confessed that they earned Bt100,000 [per month, presumably] for using the WeChat app to generate Internet traffic that could have misled vendors of Chinese products…”.

This scam was said to have not been used in Thailand. In any case, as one digital business “leader” explained, why would Thai businesses or other use these Chinese when “many Thais were also hired to click likes on certain posts in huge quantities but they got much lower fees than their Chinese counterparts.”

There were some oddities. One was that the photos showed most of the SIMs unused. Then it was said police found another farm with more than 100,000 SIM cards, although the “two Chinese men [who] had rented the place … left suddenly on Sunday night.”

Enter The Dictator. He “ordered police to extend their investigation … to determine if there was a hidden political or business agenda behind such crimes.” General Prayuth Chan-ocha “wanted police to find out whether people were using similar methods for political purposes, such as inciting the public or insulting the monarchy, in addition to commercial or other illegal activity…”.

One reason for this turned out to be that The Dictator is irked that all those people he hates – politicians – have millions of “likes” and “followers.” He particularly complained about Yingluck Shinawatra. But he was also thinking of those “nasties” he thinks are behind all the lese majeste he sees in every nook and cranny of the web.

Perhaps he should have asked how it was that some of these farmers were tipped off about the raid.

Perhaps he should have asked how these “illegal foreigners” could by up to half a million SIM cards from Thailand’s mobile network operators and other firms.

Perhaps he could have asked why it is claimed there “no Thai laws [that] can be used to prosecute them for manipulating social media, as they reportedly targeted only Chinese products.”

Perhaps he could have asked which officials are protecting the farmers and raking in the baht.





Mad at Facebook or just mad?

9 06 2017

Colonel Natee Sukonrat is the vice chairman of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission. We are not sure he’s all that bright, but that’s not uncommon when a military junta appoints based on loyalty rather than any skill, ability or capacity.

In a report at Bloomberg, it is reported that the dunces in the junta and at the Commission have decided that they will be able to “impose financial penalties on Facebook Inc. and other companies with video-sharing platforms if they fail to swiftly remove what they deem to be illegal content, including insults to the royal family.”

In fact, it mainly about the paranoia involving lese majeste in Vajiralongkorn’s Thailand.

The junta’s view is that it wants Facebook and others to remove lese majeste material “without waiting for a court order…”. Colonel Natee said “[d]etails will be released as early as this month, he said, and companies would have about a month to comply.”

Colonel Natee sniggered that he was going to do this by “touch[ing] the way you make money…”. Natee gloated: “I think they will cooperate because they make a lot of money from Thailand.”

Colonel Natee complained that “Facebook asked for the orders to be translated into English before they could comply with them — a process that can take weeks.” Really? Perhaps under the junta where they use dopes in the military as translators.

Colonel Natee declared that the “new framework would force broadcasters to comply with requests immediately and then petition the courts if they think the order was illegal…”. This twist on legal process – again, not unusual under a regime that is itself based on an illegal act – “would also compel them to have a senior manager in the country who is able to understand Thai…”.

It seems that the incapacity of the junta’s flunkies to translate or even find decent translators results in a twisted linguistic nationalism: “We will not talk in English to them…. They have to have someone to talk to us. When we give the order we will talk in Thai.”





Facebook and lese majeste

26 05 2017

As we predicted, it seems that the military dictatorship has been able to convince Facebook to block the remaining 131 sites/URLs/posts that the junta deemed as containing lese majeste content.

We say “seems” because the reporting in The Nation is poorly written.

The Ministry of Digital Economy and Society claims it “has managed to have Facebook block 131 remaining posts deemed illegal under a sweeping court order since Tuesday.”

When there was much lambasting of the Ministry and junta for its failed “deadline” threat to Facebook, we posted (linked above):

Of course, the junta can order up anything it likes from its courts, all of them the junta’s tools. That is Facebook’s problem, and not just for Thailand. Many governments, just like Thailand’s junta, have little legal legitimacy and can get a court order as easily as a takeaway pizza.

This makes Facebook a pawn in the hands of governments, both legitimate and illegitimate.

We assume that the garbled report at The Nation is saying that the royalists courts dutifully provided the court orders and Facebook, acting as if an algorithm, complied.





The king’s laundry II

21 05 2017

Immediately after writing our last post and wandering off for a bowl of noodles, we saw the Bangkok Post’s front page story of the day. We delayed this new post a couple of hours, and assume that many readers will have already seen this story. That said, it is such a display of political madness that we simply have to post on it.

The story claims that the police believe they are going to be “clamping down on lese majeste offences by shifting their focus to viewers of illegal content even if they do not post or share it.”

According to Pol Lt Gen Thitirat Nongharnpitak, “lese majeste cases involve three groups of people: the producers of illegal content; the viewers who leave comments, share content or click Like; and those who read or view without interacting.”

It was only a few days ago that the cops agreed that merely clicking “like” did not necessarily constitute lese majeste. But following the Facebook debacle, it seems that the dragnet is being thrown much wider. So wide that whatever skerrick of legality remained with lese majeste cases will be completely erased.

The Central Investigation Bureau chief warned that “users of social media will be treading a narrow path as police plan to target viewers in the crackdown even if they do not interact with those illicit webpages.”

If they can’t get at those overseas producing anti-monarchy content, the police plan to threaten every Thai using Facebook.

The police threaten: “The third group simply follows and watches. They leave no comments. Police are acquiring tools to identify this group of viewers and investigate why they like watching [the content]…”.

Yes, the police are now claiming that they are going to be “investigating” psychological motives, online accidents and curiousness because “[w]atching lese majeste content may be deemed wrongdoing.”

Of course, this sounds legally ridiculous, but that is the nature of lese majeste under the military dictatorship seeking to launder the internet of material on the king that is considered officially unacceptable.

Law and logic are no part of lese majeste. It is a tool for extreme political repression and for getting rid of those the king no longer finds acceptable

Given that even the dopes at the CIB are not going to throw hundreds of thousands into jail – at least not yet – they say they will “warn them first.”

This seems unlikely. It is claimed for example that hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions have viewed recent material on the king that the military dictatorship wants to scrub and erase from the collective Thai mind. If they are to be “warning” them all, the police would have to forget murder, rape, drug trafficking, traffic problems and several other areas where they make money.

However, the police corrected their statement just a few words later, saying “not all viewers will be warned.” Who won’t be warned? Political opponents will be at the top of the list. But the police, presumably with training in clairvoyance, will “screen those who have the potential to commit offences.” They claim that this “procedure will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and information from an investigation will be taken into account.”

Burglars and bank robbers will be free to commit their crimes because, if this police horse manure was true, no cop will be available for any other work. They will all be the king’s internet slaves.

Again, what the military dictatorship is doing is creating a climate of fear. They do this by declaring that every Facebook user in Thailand a potential criminal.