By Sasithorn Ongdee
One week after the launch of a little, well-known monster in an augmented reality gaming application called “Pokemon Go” in Thailand, the ruling junta has been on alert to tackle them as a peace and order situation.
Like people in other parts of the world, Thai teenagers have been rapidly adopting the state-of-the-art technology of the online game, and now the country is going crazy about it.
The game has become the talk of the town – not only in Thailand, but also in many other countries where Pokemon has been launched. Questions have been raised about threats to people’s lives and properties, road safety, private rights, children’s addiction, and so on. Pokemon Go is calling on the players to catch the digital monsters and items from Pokestops via their smart phones in many locations along roads, streets, parks, public areas, shrines, hospitals, schools, police stations, mass-transit terminal, shopping malls, and even government places.
Amid this maniacal hunt for digital monsters, Nintendo – a shareholder in the game’s developer Niantic Inc – has enjoyed a big jump in share price, hitting its highest levels in three decades since the launch of the app. Not only shops and restaurants, but even the Tourism and Sports Ministry, is poised to be a location for PokeStop and Gym, where the players can catch the digital monsters and reap a lot of handy items to catch the monsters besides battling other players. Pokemon hunters are certainly lured to the shops, pushing up their sales.
The ministry is now working with local representatives of Pokemon Go to add attractions in Thailand to the popular online game, which is expected to be launched in the year’s last quarter.
Making the monsters available in tourist attractions like temples and heritage sites is meaningless because the tourists will take no interest in these places except to know what and how many rare monsters they caught there.
A coin always has two sides.
The game can be useful for the players, as they can walk out of their homes and talk with other people on the same topic, making them healthier and more sociable. Ideally the players should maintain good manners and respect others’ rights.
Unfortunately, the reality does not match the aspiration. The players’ addiction to the game makes other people bored in their company. In some places, fences were destroyed by the players who wanted to get inside to catch the monsters.
The government announced that hunting for Pokemon Go monsters is banned in Government House and government offices. Other places where it is banned are: national parks, roads, archaeological sites, historic sites, some restricted areas, and sanctuaries.
At many temples and sanctuaries, there are signboards warning the catching of the monsters is not allowed or it’s a Pokemon-free zone. There are warnings at metro railway terminals requesting passengers to avoid playing the game. At a school, a teacher warned her students with a clear message on the whiteboard that said: “Not allowed to catch Pokemon in the class room. If you do, your Pokemon balls will be deleted”.
Pokemon is hogging space in the media too. It’s like we are all lured to scan any news about Pokemon. Though the government is considering taking quick action on the impact of Pokemon Go, it should be more proactive, as we have seen the adverse impacts in other countries where the game was launched earlier.
One hopes the AR online gaming application will be just a short-term craze. So, the special powers vested with the junta chief under Article 44 of the charter can be saved for other more important things.
Meanwhile, the Tourism and Sports Ministry needs to change gear quickly if it wants to capitalise on this trend, otherwise it would have missed the bus.