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.





The king’s laundry I

21 05 2017

Thailand’s military dictatorship is expanding its already frantic efforts to create a political landscape cleansed of anything that shows the real king as other than the “official king.” Like slaves and handmaidens of centuries past, the junta is busy laundering the king’s image and cleaning up his own messes.

The laundered image is the often grim, sometimes seemingly bemused man in business suit and more often a military uniform, trailed by a daughter or officials appropriately bowed or slithering.

The only concession to a more real view is that the junta’s version does allow for the now most senior consort to be regularly seen.

His earlier and third wife, Srirasmi, had been thrown into house arrest and her family jailed in late 2015 as the then prince prepared for his reign.

The new, apparently official, number one consort is also often in the military uniform of a general. She was promoted by the king to this position. Her only “qualification” is that she is the king’s consort.

The image the junta launderers don’t want seen is that of the king trailing around his beloved Munich, dressed like fashion moron, sporting mail-order tattoo transfers and accompanied by another of his girlfriends, a legion of servants and a fluffy dog.

PPT doesn’t think fashion is a necessary qualification for being king. After all, that has to do with blood. Yet his “style” says something about the man. His desire to keep this side of his life from his Thai audience is also telling. (We do not believe that the military junta would be so frantic about these images if it wasn’t being pushed by a king known to be erratic, wilful and menacing.)

The seemingly demented efforts a week ago to threaten Facebook may not have been entirely successful, but they are again revealing. The Economist reflects on these bizarre and dangerous efforts to repress for the king:

Thailand has always treated its royals with exaggerated respect, periodically clapping people deemed to have insulted the king behind bars. But some thought the death of the long-reigning King Bhumibol in October and the accession of the less revered Vajiralongkorn might curb the monarchists’ excesses. Instead, it seems to have spurred them on. The military junta that runs the country is enforcing the draconian and anachronistic lèse-majesté law with greater relish than its predecessors.

We are not sure who could have thought that a new king, often secretive and with a reputation for vindictiveness, might have eased up.

Indeed, this king has a long history of lese majeste cases in his name. One of the first cases we wrote about at PPT was of Harry Nicolaides, an Australian who wrote a forgettable novel that included these lines:

From King Rama to the Crown Prince, the nobility was renowned for their romantic entanglements and intrigues. The Crown Prince had many wives “major and minor “with a coterie of concubines for entertainment. One of his recent wives was exiled with her entire family, including a son they conceived together, for an undisclosed indiscretion. He subsequently remarried with another woman and fathered another child. It was rumoured that if the prince fell in love with one of his minor wives and she betrayed him, she and her family would disappear with their name, familial lineage and all vestiges of their existence expunged forever.

Harry was probably writing of second wife, Yuvadhida, but the words could also be applied to the treatment  of Srirasmi.

Those words must have enraged somebody. They earned Harry a sentence of six years  in jail on 19 January 2009 (reduced to three years on pleading guilty). This for defaming the then crown prince now king.

If not in Thailand, where it is illegal, read Nicolaides’ novel here. Note that this scanned version of the book bears the stamp of the National Library of Thailand but should not be downloaded in Thailand.

The Economist continues:

At least 105 people have been detained or are serving prison sentences for lèse-majesté, compared with just five under the elected government the junta overthrew in 2014. Many of them posted critical comments about the royal family on social media; some simply shared or “liked” such comments. Other arrests have been on even pettier grounds. Jatupat Boonpattararaksa, a student activist, is on trial for sharing a profile of King Vajiralongkorn published by the BBC’s Thai service. Police have warned that those agitating for his release could themselves face charges. A well-known academic, Sulak Sivaraksa, remains under investigation for several instances of lèse-majesté, including questioning whether a 16th-century battle involving a Thai king really took place.

As we have said, this number of lese majeste cases is too low. Quoting the low number allows the prince-now-king too much latitude. The lese majeste arrests and charges have been swelled by various palace purges by Prince, now King, Vajiralongkorn. Lese majeste has been widely used against those he dislikes. Give him the “credit” he deserves and for this nastiness and vindictiveness.

The Economist mentions the (almost) latest set of six cases (we will post separately on another set of cases):

This month security forces arrested Prawet Prapanukul, a human-rights lawyer best known for defending lèse-majesté suspects. He risks a record 150 years in jail if convicted of all ten counts of lèse-majesté he faces. Several recent sentences for insulting royals have exceeded 50 years; the standard for murder is 15-20 years.

All of this is followed by a banal claim by the newspaper: “Thai kings have a long history of fostering democratic reform…”. There is simply no adequate historical evidence for such a claim. It is a royalist fabrication based on notions of Thai-style democracy that is “democracy with the king as head of state,” exactly what the current junta is promoting: no democracy at all.

That Vajiralongkorn is going to be ruthless and anti-democratic should not be a surprise to anyone. He comes from a long line of anti-democratic kings who have protected privilege by working with the military. The only threat to the continuing of this monarch-military dictators alliance is if the junta gets so ticked off with the king that it decides to do away with him. That possibility seems somewhat remote.

The more likely outcome for the short to medium term is more censorship and ever more maniacal efforts to police the king’s image and wash his dirty laundry.





The king and junta have the world agog

16 05 2017

A tabloid is often sensationalist and there is some emphasis on “celebrities.” Britain’s Daily Mail is often described as this kind of tabloid.

Yet the Daily Mail has shown an interest in Thailand over the past few years, mainly focused on odd stories and accounts of celebrity holidays and problems faced by tourists. It has published a bit on the monarchy.

Its most recent story on King Vajiralongkorn is a doosie.It has it all. Naked wife, first marriage, concubines, fake tattoos, weird clothing, lese majeste, Fu Fu, coups, military junta, Facebook threats and more. And it all comes with lots of pictures and video.

If the military junta needs evidence that its actions and those of the king are problematic, they might look to the Daily Mail’s story. It is as if both junta and king have aimed a machine gun at their collective feet and shot them off.

The Daily Mail has about 4 million readers each day and its website has more than 100 million unique visitors each month. All of them will be either laughing or shaking their heads about the state of affairs in Thailand.





Facebook continues in Thailand

16 05 2017

The 10 am deadline for Facebook to remove 90-131 URLs (depends who you read) has passed. Facebook is still up and running in Thailand.

The Nation “explains” that the deadline was yet another piece of junta grandstanding (to use a Trumpism). It was a false and empty threat, at least as directed to Facebook.

To be clear, The Nation doesn’t quite say this, but it is the logical conclusion to draw from its reporting. Facebook “had not received official court orders to block the URLs so it could not make them inaccessible in Thailand.”

The deadline was false because the junta did not provide a court order for any of the 131 URLs. It is very well known, including by the junta’s showboat secretary-general of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission, Takorn Tantasith, who still appeared before the media, grandstanding about the media scam he had run.

He “explained” the “authorities had only sent court order No 31 to Facebook without providing details, and the US-based social media giant needs all the details.” He added that the “Digital Economy and Society Ministry will request court orders for all 131 URLs and it will send them to Facebook.”

What was the purpose of the junta’s grandstanding? We think that the military dictatorship was again seeking to threaten those accessing Facebook, warning them, trying to make them less likely to access any sites or pages that might be defined by the junta as “offending” the monarch or monarchy.

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.





Facebook to be blocked?

15 05 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the the junta is pressuring ISPs to cut off Facebook on Tuesday morning. The report states:

The Thai Internet Service Provider Association (Tispa) says it is under government pressure to immediately shut down the all access to Facebook as early as Tuesday morning, over the social medium’s refusal to take down every post dictated.

Tispa said it could disconnect the content delivery network (CDN) originating Facebook’s server if the social media giant fails to meet Tuesday’s 10am deadline set by the government to remove illicit URLs or posts from its site.

All of this to prevent information about the king reaching the Thai people via social media. As the report states:

This would be a massive escalation of the battle over what the government has declared illegal posts on the internet, especially web pages and social media posts deemed to have defamed the high institution [they mean the monarchy].

More than 200 of the 309 pages nominated by the junta as “offending” have already been removed by Facebook.





No laughing matter

13 05 2017

The military junta has laid its bets on King Vajiralongkorn for ensuring the future of the monarchy and the system of hierarchy, privilege and wealth it underpins.

Nothing about the king can be a laughing matter.

Yet the junta knows the king is erratic and demanding, as well as odd in his demands and personal foibles. He’s also showing he’s a political neanderthal, which might be expected of a monarch, but when combined with his other traits and limited intelligence, that makes him dangerous and unpredictable.And probably not very funny.

Some of that may have said about his father, but that king was young and subject to controls by the military, mother and old princes. Once the palace propaganda was put in place for that king, in the popular imagination, he became a polymath and a savvy politician.

By the time the military was firmly in the hands of leaders who got to the top simply by their capacity for royal ego polishing, the king and palace became a locus of political power.

That’s why the dictators have been so desperate to ban and erase all of the foibles associated with Vajiralongkorn. That’s not easy when he spends a lot of time overseas, behaving oddly. Seeking a kind of Chinese firewall without the investment, the military junta is trying to bully ISPs and international corporations into doing their censorship.

Yet that is making the situation worse. Ham-fisted censorship makes a nonentity king reigning in a relatively small and unimportant country become international news of the tabloid variety.

Among a range of other channels, VICE News recently got interested, stating:

Facebook has blocked users in Thailand from accessing a video that shows the country’s king strolling through a German shopping mall wearing a crop-top revealing his distinctive tattoos, accompanied by one of his mistresses.

Asking what was in the video banned by Facebook, VICE posted it. The report states the king was filmed while shopping at:

Riem Arcaden mall in Munich on June 10, 2016….  The video shows Vajiralongkorn walking through the shopping mall, with a woman who is believed to be one of his mistresses, Sineenat Wongvajirapakdi, aka Koi. The king’s bodyguards are also visible in the video.

The junta “banned” Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Pavin Chachavalpongpun and Somsak Jeamteerasakul for posting some of this kind of material and then rushed about arresting seven people in Thailand and accused them of sharing posts or liking them when they were considered by the junta as defaming of the king. Odd that, for the king is the one dressing up as some kind of anime character and prancing about public places with a concubine.

This has caused even wider publicity to royal shenanigans and the junta’s remarkable desperation to defend the king’s “honor” and “reputation.”

The junta holds few good cards, but is betting even more of its treasure on the “protection” of the king. They prefer to show him dressed in full military uniform, accompanied by a uniformed woman who is, at least for the moment, his official consort or the No. 1 wife.

Meanwhile, in the king’s preferred home, in Germany, the publicity provided by the junta’s actions, arrests and threats to Facebook have brought considerable attention to the royal immigrant ensconced in Tutzing (when he’s in Munich).

That leads to television reports that make the king appear weird, guaranteeing even more scrutiny and sharing; exactly what the dopes at the junta think they are preventing.

Even without German, a viewer gets the message. The junta doesn’t. For them, covering up for the king is no laughing matter. It is protecting their bread and butter, and they want lots of it on their plates.