Targeting Facebook on anti-monarchism

5 07 2021

About three weeks ago, it was reported that the regime’s No. 2 had ordered the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society to crack down on “fake news.” We assume he got his orders from higher up because the DES immediately ordered dozens of URLs closed within 48 hours. Many of the sites were not really fake news sites, but gambling or pornography sites. But the real target anti-regime and anti-monarchy sites.

Three weeks later and not much has happened apart from the regime getting ever more twitchy, again suggesting that there’s very high-level pressure on them.Facebook-Dislike-Button

As Thai PBS has reported, the regime has resumed its battle with Facebook, over the content it still deceptively claims is “fake news” when they mean sites that provide information about the monarchy:

These accounts – all operated from overseas – are registered to Pavin Chachavalpongpun, his discussion page Royalist Marketplace – Talad Luang, Andrew MacGregor Marshall, Suda Rangkupan, Pixel Helper, DK Ning, Aum Neko, and Kon Thai UK. Several of the account owners are wanted in Thailand for lese majeste.

Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn is flustered, saying: “Despite negotiations, Facebook has refused to follow orders to block eight accounts. I will bring legal action against Facebook in Thailand and its headquarters…”.

He demanded that Facebook “show responsibility towards Thailand’s issues and comply with the country’s regulations, given the fact that Facebook has many users in the Kingdom.”

There’s two things to note here. First, the minister demands that the whole of Facebook follow royalist norms and the regime’s illegitimate use of draconian laws. In other words, he seems to be going beyond the usual demand for geo-blocking of popular anti-monarchy  sites. Second, he seems to be threatening Facebook with exclusion from the Thai market, which would require that the regime descend further down the Chinese road and come up with state-approved, state monitored social media platforms.





Vendor held on 112 charge

9 04 2021

Prachatai reports data from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who say that “at least 82 people are facing charges under Section 112 since November 2020.” Several face multiple lese majeste charges and a slew of other charges.

One of the most recent cases to become known involves a 22 year-old online vendor from Chiang Mai, identified only as Phonphimon or Pholpimol.  She faces both a 112 charge and a charge made under the Computer Crimes Act. The charges are reportedly related to a Facebook post from October 2020.112

Phonphimon was arrested on 31 March 2021 “by a team of 5 – 6 uniformed and plainclothes police officers who presented an arrest warrant issued by the Chiang Mai Provincial Court…”.

She was taken to Chang Puak Police Station and “held overnight before being taken to court for a temporary detention request.”

On 1 April, she was told that “the charges were filed by Thikhathat Phrommani, who claimed he saw a Facebook post which was an insult to the King.”

The same day, the “Chiang Mai Provincial Court ruled to detain Phonphimon for 12 days, on the grounds that the penalty for the charges is high and that the accused is likely to flee or tamper with evidence.” As the police already had here electronic devices and she had given them access, this is ridiculous claim by the court.

Phonphimon has denied all charges and denies the Facebook profile is hers.

The Court denied bail and she was taken to the Chiang Mai Woman Correctional Institution. She remains in detention.

She is “being held alone with a prison guard in a cell with no window, and that there was no light other than in front of the cell.”





Updated: Yet another cover-up

5 03 2021

Readers will know that Facebook recently removed 185 accounts and groups it considered part of an information-influencing operation run by the military, mainly directed to the southern conflict. The network engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” It “included 77 accounts, 72 pages and 18 groups on Facebook and 18 accounts on Instagram…”.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of Cybersecurity Policy, stated: “We found clear links between this operation and the Internal Security Operations Command. We can see that all of these accounts and groups are tied together as part of this operation.” The Facebook report said that the “network” attempted to conceal identities and coordination, and posted primarily in Thai about news and current events, including content in support of the Thai military and the monarchy.”

The dodos at the top of the military used the usual strategy: lies and denial. According to ISOC spokesman Maj Gen. Thanathip Sawangsang:

ISOC is not aware of the takedown of the Facebook accounts as reported in the news. Those were personal accounts not related to ISOC…. ISOC also doesn’t engage in operations as reported in the news. We act as a centre for coordination to provide relief and refuge to the people.

No one believes him, but that’s not the point. Political dolts everywhere have learned that lies are all that is needed to deflect criticism, begin a cover-up, and maintain the deceit.

And, like clockwork, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha has sprung into cover-up action. The unelected prime minister, the assassin, the coup master, The Dictator and election rigger ordered an “investigation.” And who better for that task than those accused? That seems like the perfect way to cover this up. Gen Prayuth “has assigned the Royal Thai Army to investigate…”. He declared: “Facebook took action like this. It can be interpreted in many ways. We must make it clear…”. What he means is that we must cover up.

This is the second removal of military accounts associated with information operations and covert online warfare. Back then they lied and covered-up as well and nothing happened. Business as usual. We expect the same from these revelations.

Update: A reader points out that we missed an obvious point: getting the Army to investigate itself is a non-investigation. Indeed it is, but it is a tried and trusted maneuver by Thailand’s military bosses. The result is inevitably a cover-up.





Dead dog lese majeste

17 01 2021

A few days ago, The Nation reported that, after more than five years, including seven days of interrogation and physical assault at an Army camp and three months held in prison, a court had finally dismissed the most ludicrous of lese-majeste charges that royalist Thailand has ever mounted. Along with equally mad sedition and computer crime charges associated with the Army’s corrupt Rajabhakti Park royal project, the Article 112 charges against Thanakorn Siripaiboon were all dismissed.

The lese majeste and computer crimes charges resulted from Thanakorn clicking “like” on a Facebook page featuring a satirical picture of King Bhumibol and for a Facebook post about that king’s mutt, Thong Daeng. It is reported that the “court dismissed that charge … ruling that the evidence was not proof that he intended to defame the monarchy.”

The court dismissed the other charges, “upholding Thanakorn’s legal right to air his suspicions of corruption. It also ruled he had not violated the Computer Crime Act because it could not be proved the information he shared was false.” According to a more detailed Prachatai report, the court ruled that “the Court said that a call for transparency in the project was not an act of sedition.

While good news, the court’s “reasoning” on the lese majeste case indicates that the judiciary remains royalist mad:

With regard to liking the problematic Facebook page, an act which put him under lèse-majesté and computer crime charges, the Court said that there was no “following button” on Facebook at the time, so a user had to click “like” to follow a Facebook page.

Clicking “like” to follow the news on a Facebook page in September 2015 was not the same as clicking “like” on an allegedly lèse majesté picture which was posted in December, so the Court acquitted him of the lèse majesté charge.

And since the defendant only followed the page, and did not share it, he did not spread any false information from the page. Facebook may have promoted any public post or pages randomly on anyone’s newsfeed, but it was not Thanakorn’s doing. So the Court also acquitted him of the computer crime charge.

Thanakorn has since ordained as a monk.





Maintaining the monarchy’s secrets

12 12 2020

As lese majeste charges pile up, Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta – one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s People’s Democratic Reform Committee men – seems to think that the best way to douse the flames of anti-monarchism is to cut off sources of information.

That’s about what we’d expect from a rightist with a track record of censorship for the monarchy. His last effort was against Pornhub, where Buddhipongse declared “that the decision was not related to a clip featuring an important Thai personality that was posted on the website.” Everyone knew he was talking about the king and his former wife, the latter having been treated loathsomely by the former, and that the clip of her near naked was the reason for the ban.

This month, Buddhipongse is seeking to censor critics of the monarchy and those who provide information on the monarchy that the regime and palace would prefer remained secret.

DES claims to have sent “evidence” to police and to be seeking “legal action against social media platforms that fail to remove URLs deemed inappropriate.” The PDRC minister said “the ministry has asked the Royal Thai Police’s Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) to take action against a total of 496 URLs which violated the Computer Crime Act and security laws between Oct 13 and Dec 4.”

Marshall

Of these, “284 URLs are on Facebook, 81 on YouTube, 130 on Twitter, and the rest on other platforms,” with DES identifying “19 account owners — 15 on Facebook and four on Twitter…”.

The ministry is after “Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who faces 74 court orders to block 120 URLs; Somsak Jeamteerasakul, who faces 50 court orders to block 66 URLs, and Pavin Chachavalpongpun, who faces 194 court orders to block 439 URLs.” This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Pavin

Um, that’s already 631 URLs…. Something is wrong with the numbers, but let’s just say that the regime reckons these social media activists are lighting the fire under the protesters, so dousing them, they mistakenly think, will put out the anti-monarchism. In a sense, to mix metaphors, the DES and the regime are trying to put the horses back in the barn after thousands of them have bolted.

This time, the PDRC minister is also going after anti-government protesters, with court orders to block two of Arnon Nampa’s URLs and four of Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak.

Somsak

The ministry’s public cyber vigilantes are continuing to report anything and everything. Last month alone, these royalist screenwatchers reported, via the “Volunteers Keep an Eye Online” webpage, 11,914 URLs. Of these, even the ministry could only deem 826 of them “illegal” while the pliant courts found 756 were to be blocked. The ministry and police must be inundated with work for the monarchy.

Buddhipongse is furious that the social media platforms don’t follow his orders, with Facebook blocking 98 of the 487 links he wanted blocked. Twitter removed 8 of 81 URLs. YouTube is far more pliant, blocking all 137 links the ministry flagged.

It is deeply concerning that these social media giants take seriously court orders from a judiciary that is a tool of the regime in political cases and on the monarchy’s poor PR. All the same, the information and the monarchy’s secrets are out there, and the regime will not be able to sweep it away.





Updated: Lug nuts and dipsticks I

26 08 2020

A reader has provided us with a letter that was given to the Japanese Embassy by a bunch of ultra-royalists yesterday. We haven’t seen a report on this event, but they seem mainly supporting the regime’s attacks on Facebook, which appears to be entirely about Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s wildly popular Royalist Marketplace. This causes them to call for Japan to deport Pavin back to Thailand or for the Japanese government to censor him.

There’s also a Thai-language version where some of the several errors in the English, including the king’s name and Pavin’s university. The English version does, however, display the  deranged thinking that flows from ultra-royalism. And, as in previous ultra-royalist/rightist campaigns, pressuring foreign governments is a part of broadening political hysteria.

As the broader yellow-shirted movement has been doing for some time, it is seen that the ultras blame Pavin for leading students astray. It seems that the aged paternalists are unable to conceive that any Thai can think for themselves. They perhaps draw that conclusion from their own acceptance of and belief in palace and regime propaganda.

Statement

People of Nation, Religion and Monarchy, No. 1

Subject: Friendship between Thais and Japanese People

To: H.E. Japanese Prime Minister

Thailand is under the democratic system with the King as spiritual leader of Thai people. All Thais adore and respect our King above all things so it becomes our longtime culture, the same as the Japanese people do. H.M. the King Vachiraklao Chaoyuhua is kind to every group of Thai people, he is the center of spirit and unity for all Thais. At present, it is known that Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, Thai who has committed criminal charge escaped the arrest warrant to Japan and uses face-book under the the name of “Pavin Chachavalpongpun”, “Royalist Market Place”, and posted false articles of lese majesties against the King and the royal families. He posted indictment, and ideology to students with improper words, rude and detest and persuaded students to protest the King and the royal families. He also gave an interview to foreign media that made all Thais felt uneasy to let this man hurt the King’s feeling. Thais felts uncomfortable that you let the man lives happily in your country and to protect this Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun to commit such activities till now.

As a representative of Thai people who love the Royal institute and do not want anyone to hurt the feeling of the King, the same as the Japanese people do toward your Emperor who is your spiritual leader – in case you let this commitment to be continued it will affect the longtime Thai and Japanese friendship from the activities of this Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun. We hope you will understand the feeling of Thai people and we request you as following:

1. To let your government use authority to immediately stop the lese majesties commitment of Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun, and deport him back to Thailand to face charges in Thailand. This is for keeping good relations between Thai and Japanese people.

2. To remove Mr. Pavin Chachavalpongpun from the post of teacher in Tokyo University and not to let him no longer act as lecturer in the institute.

3. Your government should act faithfully to solve the problem and not to support this activities of Mr. Pavin Chavhavalpongpun, and report us every step of your procedure.

4. All Thai people hope that our request would get your response and we will keep waiting for your proceeding, and would take some action if we did not get anything from you.

Hope to get your cooperation from your Government

People of Nation, Religion and Monarchy

25 August 2563

Update: There’s brief mention of the ultras’ call for deporting Pavin here.





Updated: Protecting regime/protecting monarch

25 08 2020

If it was needed, two reports today again demonstrate how the political fortunes of the regime and the monarch are tied together.

One report is of student activist Panupong  Jadnok, arrested for (we think) a third time while “protesting in Rayong outside a market being visited by Prime Minister [Gen] Prayut[h] Chan-o-cha.” Expecting Gen Prayuth and his cabinet to show up, “Rayong Mike” was protesting “a land reclamation scheme at Ban Phe municipality market when police showed up with an arrest warrant.” It seems the warrant was “issued by Thanyaburi Court over Mr Panupong’s role in the Aug 10 political gathering at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus…”. That’s when the 10 demands were issued for the monarchy to be made properly constitutional.

A second report is about Facebook’s capitulation to threats from the regime regarding Pavin Chachavalpongpun’s dissident Royalist Marketplace group. Facebook has geoblocked it for Thailand, claiming to be acting on legal requests from the regime: “Access to this group has been restricted within Thailand pursuant to a legal request from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society.”

As can be seen in the above clip, even though only formed in April, the group had more than a million followers, and it may be assumed that most of these were young people in Thailand. This “demand” certainly makes a mockery of claims that the monarch is revered. Rather, he’s widely disliked.

But, this huge popularity and the sarcasm of the site caused the regime considerable angst.

Pavin responded, saying “Facebook had bowed to the military-dominated government’s pressure.” He added: “Our group is part of a democratisation process, it is a space for freedom of expression…. By doing this, Facebook is cooperating with the authoritarian regime to obstruct democracy and cultivating authoritarianism in Thailand.”

According to Reuters, Facebook is reacting:

Facebook said on Tuesday it was planning to legally challenge the Thai government after being “compelled” to block access to the group.

“Requests like this are severe, contravene international human rights law, and have a chilling effect on people’s ability to express themselves,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“We work to protect and defend the rights of all internet users and are preparing to legally challenge this request.”

Despite being blocked, always the entrepreneurial anti-monarchist, Pavin is said to have a “new group of the same name already had over 455,000 members on Tuesday.”

Update: For more on Royalist Marketplace, its blocking and the new site, see the excellent article at Prachatai.





Facebook and the censors

2 08 2020

A couple of days ago we mentioned a report that “Facebook has admitted to an error in its automatic translation, from English to Thai, and has offered a profound apology to the Thai people.” As the error was not detailed, we assumed it involved the monarchy.

Several readers have now told us that the translation for the king’s birthday made it his death day.

But even after Facebook had made its apology, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society sprang into royalist action. It:

sent an urgent letter to Facebook in Singapore and Thailand, demanding the social media giant take responsibility over a mistranslated headline from English into Thai about the live broadcasting ceremony to celebrate the King’s birthday seen on several media Facebook pages on Tuesday.

At lightening speed, the police have begun “collecting evidence for an investigation into the matter following a complaint made by Thai PBS TV station on Wednesday.” Comparisons with the farce of the Vorayuth “Boss” Yoovidhya case. The regime’s priorities are all too evident.

The panicked Thai PBS groveled, contacting ” the Royal Household Bureau, the DES Ministry and various agencies about the incident.”

DES Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta, one of Suthep Thaugsuban’s men, “confirmed the letter was sent to Facebook” while “at a meeting with National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) together with internet service providers (ISPs) about efforts to deal with the violations of the Computer Crime Act.”

In other words, the Minister and the regime he serves are more broadly concerned about social media and the monarchy and to declare that the Ministry has been active, “gather[ing] evidence and fil[ing] complaints to the courts, which were asked to issue an order to close websites or delete information which breached the law.”

Buddhipongse said the Ministry had “received complaints about 8,715 URLs. Of them, the courts issued orders for action against 7,164 URLs.” Apparently this is for the first seven months of the year. The Minister added that “YouTube removed 1,507 out of 1,616 URLs [93%] on the court orders from its platform. Facebook took down 1,316 out of 4,676 URLs [28%] as ordered by the court.”

This caused him to criticize and threaten Facebook: “Facebook gave little cooperation although it operates a service in Thailand and Thais generate fruitful benefits to the company…”.

We decided to look at the data. While not yet available for the period the Minister rants about, Google (including YouTube) reports that for the whole of 2019, it received 4,684 requests for removal of specific items from Thai officials. It removed 3,945 or about 84%.

Facebook reports data that is only This report details instances where it has “limited access to content based on local law.” While we can’t find data for the number of requests received, the data do show how blocking has expanded over time (see our first post on this).

As the Thai Enquirer observes, this action coincides with “heightened tensions over the treatment of the Thai monarchy, in recent weeks, with ardent royalists becoming increasingly more active in protecting the [monarchy]… from becoming embroiled or linked with political commentary…”.

It might have added that it coincides with the long absence of the king from the country. As far as we can remember, since early this year, he’s only been in Thailand for a few hours. This has led to considerable muttering.





Monarchy and conflict I

31 07 2020

Maybe PPT hasn’t been following social media closely enough, but we were surprised by a report that “Facebook has admitted to an error in its automatic translation, from English to Thai, and has offered a profound apology to the Thai people.” As the error is not detailed, we can only assume that it involved the monarchy.

Meanwhile in “protecting the monarchy” a bunch of mostly aged “protesters” have rallied against student activists. Khaosod reports:

The rally, billed as a “show of solidarity,” was organized by a group calling themselves “Polytechnic Students for the Nation.” It was the first counter-protest ever since rallies against PM Prayut Chan-o-cha’s leadership sprang up across the country two weeks ago [not quite correct. There was another held last week outside Army HQ].

“We, the Polytechnic for the Nation, are loyal to the nation, religion, and the monarchy, which are the important backbone of the constitutional monarchy regime,” Tossapol Manunrat, the group’s leader, said. “We’re not against the protests, but they must not do anything that crosses the line, which can lead to violence.”

“We will take action by giving the right information about the monarchy and expose the real agenda of those who use the youths for their anti-monarchy ends,” he continued.

As in the past, such tepid beginnings are usually only the first sparks in a broader mobilization of the right that usually involves ISOC manipulation. Watch the rightist space.





Thanet’s long trial

30 06 2020

A few days ago, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported on the long-running set of cases against Thanet Anantawong. A couple of news outlets picked up the story, including The Thaiger.

A photo from The Straits Times of a damaged statue at Rajabhakti Park

Thanet’s case goes back to 2015 and protests against the Army’s huge posterior polish of the monarchy when it opened its tacky Rajabhakti Park of giant bronzes of selected kings. The Army was accused of corruption and students and activists demonstrated. Thanet supported them.

This sent Army thugs in search of reasons to jail Thanet, a red shirt. A military court soon issued a warrant for the arrest of the working class 25 year-old on charges of lese majeste, inciting disorder and computer crimes, accused of having shared an infographic detailing the corruption, criticized Privy Council President Gen Prem Tinsulanonda and commented on the death in custody of then then Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn’s soothsayer,  Suriyan Sujaritpalawong in five Facebook posts.

The lese majeste charge was quietly dropped soon after he was arrested but the other charges remained, alleging that Thanet’s posts “caused people to dislike the government, leading to protests to topple it.”

When arrested, Thanet was dragged from a hospital bed, and eventually spent 3 years and 10 months in jail awaiting some of the charges to be heard.

TLHR report that Thanet has now “been acquitted of national security and computer crime charges…”. Showing the good sense that is so often missing from the royalist judiciary, the court ruled “that while Thanet may have had different views from those in power at the time, he acted constitutionally:

The court believes his expression of opinions was not intended to stir up sedition or disobedience among people to the extent it could cause unrest in the kingdom or law violations. It was legitimate free speech. Since the witnesses and evidence of the plaintiff do not carry sufficient weight to warrant a guilty verdict, we’ve dismissed the charges.

The notion of “legitimate free speech” is something the courts should be held to in future.