By Kornchanok Raksaseri
Following the arrest of Patnaree Seritiwat, the mother of student activist Sirawith Seritiwat or “Ja New”, on lese majeste charges over her Facebook messages, activist and former senator Jon Ungpakorn has questioned to what extent a government should have
The issue raised by Jon is worthy of discussion, however, recent events have left little doubt that there is no guarantee of confidentiality for online messages.
A woman in Songkhla recently posted on Facebook, warning police not to arrest her because she was not someone “police should be messing with”. She posted pictures of herself and her friends with guns and a lot of orange-coloured pills, which were seen as methamphetamine. She wrote that the post was just for fun and asked her friends to give her “Likes” and comments.
However, the police did not find the post funny. A police officer posted a Facebook reply to her that Thai police could not be insulted and that they were tracking the woman and would find her. The two women involved with the post were arrested and charged with illegal possession of guns and drugs.
Many online users commented that she had shot herself in the foot.
Veteran business reporter Bighnun BN posted a message asking whether it was a coincidence or intentional that Salinee Wangtal, director-general of the Office of SME Promotion and former chairwoman of SME Bank, met and took group pictures with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra in Dubai. She was joined by dozens of Thai business people, to promote Thai SMEs there.
It was not only the picture that was circulated online. Even the history of her professional rise to the current post under the current government has also been circulated with some comments and analyses.
Meanwhile, earlier this week, a detailed programme for a teachers’ conference held by the Office of the Basic Education Commission at Muang Thong Thani was circulated on the Education Ministry agency’s website. It would not have become the talk of the town but for its note to teachers attending the conference on how they should greet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who would preside over the opening ceremony. It said when the PM arrives at the conference hall, the teachers should applaud him and stop when he sits down. After he finishes his speech, they should shout, “PM Soo Soo!” [Keep on fighting!]
The government spokesman immediately came out to clarify that the PM did not want the teachers to please him in that manner and it was the decision of the organisers to issue such a guidance to the teachers. Online users, however, had mixed reactions with some seeing it as a normal Thai tradition, some thought it was funny, while some criticised it as the ways of a dictatorship.
Witchapon Art wrote: “As if this is a game show, with signals to cheer and applaud.”
Parinya Pittayapinun wrote, “What do you think about Singapore? Is it far better than us [Thailand]? People’s living standards, basic welfare, rule of law, are they fair to everyone? Think carefully and ask yourself if you want to be like that.”
Pongchai Yeeram wrote, “ ‘Keep on fighting’, [but] who is there to fight with?”
These may or may not be examples to support the campaign of the “We Need To Talk” group formed by students of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication campaigning for social media literacy. They recently shared satire about the behaviour of Thai online users and divided them into seven groups.
They are: Keyboard brats – who comment without careful thought; Coconut Shell People – who believe only themselves; Eight-line People – who skim through content and then imagine the story by themselves; Camera People – who initiate dramas with their pictures; Share People – who share content without thinking of the consequences; Enchanted People – who believe whatever they read or see online; and Nosey People – who act as Internet detectives.