Tuesday, July 16, 2019

‘Explosive’ FB page loyal to govt raises questions

Jul 01. 2017
Facebook screen shot of
Facebook screen shot of "Priang" page
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By SAKDA SAMERPOP
THE SUNDAY NATION

4,005 Viewed

IS ‘PRIANG’ RUN BY A SUPPORTER OF PM, OR IS IT AN ‘INSIDE’ JOB BY THE COMMUNICATION TEAM?

THE “thunder of justice” is coming to slash fake news and rumours – at least that’s what a newly set-up Facebook page, which is evidently a backer of junta premier Prayut Chan-o-cha, claims to do. Is it a genuine supporter or is it just another ‘information operation’ by the junta to counter negative public sentiment? 

“Priang” is the equivalent of “kaboom” in English – representing a loud explosion. It is also the name of the page that aims to “correct” controversial reports regarding PM Prayut and his junta-backed government.

Created on June 20, the page even flaunts Prayut’s “artistic” side. It made a post on Thursday of a poem written by the premier to encourage civil servants. The page’s “like” skyrocketed from 200 to almost 2,000 in merely a day.

It could have passed off as just another pro-Prayut media, had it not posted the poem even before reporters became aware of the existence of this literary work. 

This makes it obvious that whoever is managing the page has access to government insiders. The question, obviously, is who? 

The page’s administrator said in a recent post that he or she was merely an “old news person” who has been on Facebook for just a year.

“I haven’t gone to Government House for a decade. There’s nothing much about me being an ‘insider’,” the administrator said. “There are connections I built during my old time as a reporter. A sense of news remains in me. That’s all there’s is to it.”

With the page’s administrator choosing to remain anonymous, these claims are not yet proven.

Looking back at the Government Spokesperson office’s strategy, creating public understanding and a good impression about this government have been priorities.

Led by Government Spokesperson Lt-General Sansern Kaewkamnerd, the team has shifted from one strategy to another and to yet another. Still, their major constraints are bureaucratic language and politically correct communication that sometimes can be hard to comprehend.

Casually written language, with splashes of slang and soft swearing such as appears in Priang, could be a much better tool.

Around the middle of last year, a “strategic communication team” was set up under Sansern’s office. 

The team consists of five officers from the Spokesperson’s office and three contract employees – a graphic designer, an information gathering officer and a news writer. They were all selected by Sansern himself.

The contract employees’ wages are included in the budget of the spokesperson’s office. They are each given Bt17,000 to Bt20,000 per month.

“This team’s main task is to monitor news reports in social media, given that there are many that criticise and distort [the image of] the government,” the Government House source said. “The spokesperson also said that the government should be able to explain its side.”

However, it is not yet known with certainty what this “strategic communication team” is concretely doing.

Sansern told The Nation he had no knowledge of the existence of the page. “I’m more keen to enjoy songs on YouTube than using Facebook,” he said.

If Priang is really organised by some government-hired people, the question is: Is it okay for the government agency, using the government budget, to present insider information under a cover?

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