Police in Thailand have opened investigations of four people for supposedly causing panic by posting rumours of a possible military coup on Facebook.
Such rumours are commonplace in Thailand and it would take more than a few articles on Facebook
to create even a credible rumour. But of course authorities are prone to go over the top, and a police chief has threatened to charge anyone who even liked the postings.
The move comes as Bangkok braces for possible political protests this
week coinciding with a reconciliation bill related to the 2006 coup in the country.
Technology Crime Suppression division chief Police Maj. Gen. Pisit Paoin said that the four posted Facebook entries with false information that could damage the
country. Among those accused are Sermsuk Kasitipradit, the political editor of public television channel TPBS, and a local pro-government protest leader. The postings mentioned a possibility of a military coup and urged the public to hoard food and
water. Pisit threatened:.
Those who 'liked' and 'shared' the posts will also face charges, so we would like to ask the public to contemplate very carefully about the way they use social media,
than 1,000 anti-government protesters kicked off a rally in Bangkok on Sunday as lawmakers were scheduled to deliberate on the controversial bill on Wednesday. Last week, the government invoked the Internal Security Act in three Bangkok districts, citing
the possibility of protest violence. The act, in effect from Aug. 1 - 10, authorizes officials to seal off roads, take action against security threats, impose curfews and ban the use of electronic devices in designated areas. Peaceful and unarmed rallies
are allowed under the law.
Thai Government officers have raided 13 community radio stations in Bangkok and neighbouring provinces which have been accused of broadcasting a speech allegedly containing comments offensive to the monarchy.
A joint task force made up of officers
from the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc), the Office of the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Crime Suppression Division as well as local police carried court warrants to the community radio stations and seized
Police spokesman Pol Maj Gen Prawuth Thawornsiri said Isoc had ordered police to take legal action against community radio stations which had broadcast a controversial April 10 speech made by Puea Thai Party MP Jatuporn Prompan,
since he is facing lese majeste charges as a result.
The raids included two radio stations in Pathum Thani province belonging to the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD).
The two were a 105.40 MHz channel in
tambon Khu Khot and the 96.35 MHz Red Skills station in tambon Lat Sawai.
Police detained DJ Lucky , chief of the first radio station, and confiscated transmitters, computers and the antennas from both channels.
About 300 red
shirts gathered at the Red Skills station in an attempt to prevent the police from taking away the equipment. Police negotiated with the protesters and took DJ Kom , the station head, for questioning at Khu Khot police station.
detainees were later released on bail of 75,000 baht each.
Thai authorities have banned four publications linked to the anti-government protest movement.
Thailand's army chief Anupong Paochina signed an order this week to ban three newspapers and one magazine associated with the red-shirt protesters at the centre of the worst rioting in modern Thai history last week.
The bans to supposedly protect national security will further stifle communications by the protesters' United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD).
Breach of the bans carry a maximum jail term of two years.
follows the blocking of scores of websites, community radio stations and the UDD's television station, People's Channel, under a state of emergency currently in place in Bangkok and 23 provinces.
The outlawed publications include:
the twice-weekly Truth Today newspaper
the weekly Thai Red News
bi-monthly Voice of Taksin.
These media outlets are not real newspapers. They are tools for groups to create chaos in the country, Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuagsuban told reporters. There are some community radio stations and some print media outlets which
encourage people to be antagonistic towards one another so we have to do something.
Thai people had little need for multiple media outlets such as cable TV and websites since most spread misinformation, which caused bigger social division, Bangkok Senator Rosana Tositakul claimed.
Do we really need so many media channels? And
how could we control a large number of media channels, anyway? Rosana asked at a seminar entitled How to Reform the New Media , held by Thammasat University's Faculty of Journalism and Communications.
Rosana said media reports
about misinformation incited hatred, so the media should report with more conscience.
Misinformation is like toxic food that causes damage to the viewer's brain, Rosana said.
However, Adisak Limparungpattanakit, who heads the
Satellite Television Association of Thailand, said a new national broadcasting and telecommunications commission should not only try to control the media, but help people across the country get access. It should also encourage outlets to produce more
good content instead of only blocking 'bad' content.
Reporters Without Borders is alarmed by a government announcement on 14 May that it will introduce new regulations for community radio stations and cable and satellite TV stations aimed at controlling programme content. Broadcasters would be required to
seek permission for each programme being aired, the government said.
The adoption of these regulations would deal a fatal blow to free expression in Thailand, which is already heavily restricted on the Internet, Reporters Without Borders
said. The government will have the power to ban programmes that question their policies and legitimacy. We urge the authorities to scrap this plan.
Sathit Wongnongtoey, the minister in charge of the prime minister’s office, said: Once
the regulations take effect, any broadcast station airing content deemed to be politically incendiary will not be allowed to operate.
Political content on community radio and satellite TV stations will be banned under proposed regulations issued by Thailand's National Telecommunications Commission.
The government said it would enforce the changes evenly against any broadcaster
which offends, including the red shirt-run DStation and yellow shirt-owned ASTV satellite TV stations.
Prime Minister's Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey said the regulations would allow the NTC to take action against community radio and
satellite TV stations which air content deemed to undermine democracy.
The regulations require cable TV and satellite TV channels to seek permission for each programme being aired, Sathit said: Once the regulations take effect, any broadcast
station airing content deemed to be politically incendiary won't be allowed to operate.'
Following the anti-government protests, the Thai government has begun to crack down on the opposition media. Will the heavy-handed tactics will incite further chaos?
Radio and television stations in Thailand have been warned by authorities
against airing anti-government criticism that could cause civil unrest. Satit Wonghnongtaey, who is in charge of government’s media policy, told reporters that the government needed to shut down these media, suggesting they had been used to incite unrest
in the country.
Opposition websites have also become a target. Thai Netizen Network (TNN), an Internet freedom campaign group, said in a statement on Tuesday that the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology has blocked 66 ‘political
websites that aired views different from those in power’ since 18 April.
Thai Netizen Network (TNN) would like to express our deepest regret with regard to the political conflict that intensified until it led to the loss of lives and properties, and the government's enforcement of the Emergency Decree on Government
Administration In States of Emergency B.E. 2548, which infringes upon citizens' rights and freedoms by controlling Internet media.
The government has blocked numerous websites that offer viewpoints that differ from those in power, pursuant to news
report that the ICT Ministry has ordered censorship of over 60 websites.
The Thai government has begun forcibly dismantling red shirt networks by raiding and closing down community radio stations.
Police raided the pro-Thaksin DStation in Bangkok and, in central Chiang Mai, police raided a community radio station
operated by the anti-government Rak Chiang Mai 51, which is known to support former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Police seized transmission equipment against a backdrop of angry protests by more than 200 red shirts who gathered outside the
hotel. Chiang Mai provincial police chief Sommai Kongwisaisuk said the station was told to stop broadcasting after 6pm on Monday.
Provincial branches of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) also asked community radio operators not to
use their stations to incite unrest.
In Udon Thani, police raided a pro-Thaksin community radio station run by the Khon Rak Udon group. Police seized transmission equipment. Wachira Khamsueb, a radio host, was charged with operating radio
equipment without a licence and released on bail. More than 100 members of the Khon Rak Udon group turned up at the police station to protest the police action.
A team of 30 police officers raided DStation, the satellite TV station run by the
United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, based in Bangkok. The UDD used DStation to broadcast protest activities and air Thaksin's speeches.
Troops seized control of the Thaicom satellite station in Lat Lum Kaew, Pathum Thani, used by
DStation to broadcast reports to UDD supporters in Bangkok and around the country.