Bling, buddies and bosses

9 01 2018

It is no coincidence that the junta’s efforts to block URLs it doesn’t like have peaked exactly when it is under scrutiny. To be more precise, when Deputy Dictator General Prawit Wongsuwan is under scrutiny.

Just over a month ago, as Prawit’s extensive collection of very expensive watches began to be exposed on social media, censorship went into overdrive. Then the mainstream media picked up the story and has reported the rapidly growing list of watches and expensive jewels worn by the general. (He has a stash of heavy gold jewelry as well, but that has seen little attention to date).

Then the National Anti-Corruption Commission got involved and began spreading a large rug, presumably to sweep the case under it as the public watches agog.

From the beginning it has been reported that NACC president Police General Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit was not just appointed by the junta after having served in the junta following the coup, but is also a close aide of Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, younger brother of Gen Prawit.

The NACC and its boss seem intent on demonstrating how nepotism works under the junta.

As the photos of watches and jewelry pile up on a daily basis, the NACC says it “will take until the end of this month or early next month to complete its probe into the luxury watches scandal surrounding … Prawit…”.

Watcharapol has “assured” the public that the NACC will display “professionalism and transparency in the investigation.” He “explained” that the agency’s “decision over this issue will be made by a majority of nine commissioners, not by me. I can’t have influence over other commissioners…”. As he hasn’t recused himself from the case so it can only be assumed that he is influencing the investigation he heads and the decision of the commissioners.

Prawit is likely to get off. This won’t happen if the junta decides that the damage done exceeds the Big Brother’s usefulness to the junta and its post-“election” plans.

 





Get a VPN

31 12 2017

As the military dictatorship blocks traffic to sites critical of it and the monarchy, we urge readers to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN).

A VPN “extends a private network across a public network, and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across the VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.”

VPNs are used to protect private web traffic from snooping, interference and censorship.

A VPN is useful for maintaining privacy when browsing and can also be used for unlocking geo-restricted content.

One site suggests 5 best options for Thailand. Others are listed here. Most browsers allow add-on VPNs.

Those who only need ad-hoc VPN capability may consider installing the Opera browser as an additional browser for their desktop/notebook /tablet, since it incorporates  a number of useful security features, which include a built-in ad blocker and a VPN (provided by SurfEasy Inc., based in Canada), which is accessed when needed in the “Privacy and Security” section of Settings.

Some time ago, tests showed SurfEasy free offered several locations for non-Thailand IP access and reasonably efficient speeds for a “free” VPN service; a subscription service is available, which offers better speeds and location options.

Opera software is available for Windows, at http://www.opera.com/computer/windows ; Mac’s, at http://www.opera.com/computer/mac ; and Linux, at http://www.opera.com/computer/linux .

A  subscription VPN extension for Opera/ Chrome/ FireFox that has proved to be stable and memory-efficient under Thai conditions is ZenMate <https://zenmate.com/>.

Readers in Thailand should search for more information on VPNs and evaluate them. They should also continue to be careful about their internet connections. Although more than a year old now, this guide for journalists may assist some readers.





No internet freedom

16 11 2017

Thailand remained a black hole for internet freedom in 2016. Freedom House reports that the key developments have been:

  • In August, voters approved a referendum on a draft constitution that would weaken political parties, strengthen unelected bodies, and entrench the military’s presence in politics.
  • Authorities placed severe restrictions on free expression ahead of the vote, including through the 2016 Referendum Act, which criminalized the expression of opinions “inconsistent with the truth.” Over 100 people were arrested for offenses related to the referendum.
  • In September, the government issued an order that halted the practice of trying civilians accused of national security, lèse-majesté, and certain other crimes in military courts. However, the order is not retroactive and does not cover cases that had already entered the military court system.
  • Following the death of [the king]… in October, the military government intensified restrictions on speech deemed offensive to the monarchy as it worked to manage the period of transition.

Read the whole sorry tale of the military dictatorship’s repression.





Policy shambles

5 07 2017

The Bangkok Post reports that the “attempt to rein in over-the-top (OTT) service operators is in shambles after the national telecom regulator abruptly announced Wednesday it is scrapping the planned regulations that would force OTT companies worldwide to register for tax purposes.”

Other current policy shambles includes the military junta’s “policy” on migrant labor and police “reform.”

When a country is in the hands of lawless totalitarians, they can do whatever they like. When what they like is wrong, bizarre or mad, they can still do it.

On the OTT debacle, it is now said the “National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) board, the widely-criticised framework had several weak points and will be replaced with a new one.”

In fact, the draft legislation was page after page of nonsense meant to protect the junta and the monarchy in a way that threatened disruption to communications and business on a huge scale. Mad monarchists have no vision or capacity for reasonable thought.





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.





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.