This is part XXI of “Tongue-Thai’ed!”, in which we encapsulate the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.
Thailand has a long line of officers, politicians and other authority figures who think they have more authority than their job entitles them and they’re not afraid to show it.
For those of you who missed it, last weekend saw the emergence of Police Maj.-Gen. Pisit Pao-in as the new brash, self-proclaimed chief censor of Thailand. The director of the Technology Crime Suppression Division (TCSD) chief crashed on the scene in the last couple of days after he instructed the summoning of four people for posting coup rumors on Facebook, one of them a red shirt and the other a political editor for ThaiPBS.
The Nation had an exclusive interview with Pisit Pao-in on this matter and he explains his true ‘rationale’ for this action, which speaks for itself…
Q : Are asking if clicking “like” is now against the law. [sic!]
A : It will be if you ‘like’ a message deemed damaging to national security. If you press ‘like’, it means you are accepting that message, which is tantamount to supporting it. By doing so, you help increase the credibility of the message and hence you should also be held responsible. (…)
A : The TCSD action is just meant to have a psychological impact.We don’t want these four persons to be jailed. We just questioned them and it’s okay for them to say they didn’t mean to create panic. After this action, people are now more careful [about their Facebook messages]. I am mainly aiming at social peace. (…)
“‘Liking’ political rumours is a crime“, by Pakorn Puengnetr, The Nation, August 11, 2013
Just to reiterate, he admits using scare tactics to curb political rumor-mongering online and at the same time seeks to criminalize Facebook ‘likes’, since he apparently believes in guilt by association.
On Tuesday, it emerged that Pisit has set his sights on another medium that seems to be just spewing with harmful contents…!
Thai police asked the operator of the popular ‘‘Line’’ instant messaging app for access to records of online chats, raising concerns about intrusive surveillance despite promising only suspected criminals would be targeted.
Technology Crime Suppression division chief Pisit Paoin said Tuesday that police want to review the data of users they suspect are involved in crimes, including making statements against the Thai monarchy, arms trading, prostitution and drug dealing.
“Thai police seek to monitor chat app for crimes“, by Thanyarat Doksone, Associated Press, August 13, 2013
The Nation put out another story (likely done during the same interview from last week) again showing his line of thinking and also crying foul against foreign companies…
“We have been talking to them [the operators of social media] a lot, but they do not want to cooperate. When they want anything, they expect to get it, but when we ask them for something, they rarely help us. They have taken a lot from Thailand but refused to cooperate with Thailand. I won’t let them go if they make any mistakes,” he warned. (…)
“We are not violating anybody’s rights, as the checking is being done overseas. So you can’t really attack me for this,” he said. (…)
“If I want, I can investigate all the information on smart phones. We can investigate all the crimes done via computer systems.”
“Police seek to check Line posts“, by Pakorn Puengnetr, Asina Pornwasin & Chanikarn Phumhiran, The Nation, August 13, 2013
Those evil foreign social media companies refusing to openly disclose user information and their private chats – that are probably full of stickers anyways – to the Thai police without a warrant or any other legal mandate, even they have been requested to do so! However, the Korean-Japanese company behind the LINE application have repeatedly stated on Tuesday that they have never been officially contacted by the Thai police before.
On Wednesday – amidst a flood of bemusement and ridicule of Thai social media users – he clarified his plans to monitor the estimated 15m LINE subscribers…
According to the commander, the plan to keep tabs on messaging app users will not violate people’s right to privacy, because the TCSD has software to monitor messages with words that pose threats to national security, such as coup, monarchy, lese majeste, drugs, counterfeit goods and prostitution.
The plan is intended to safeguard political, social and national stability, maintain peace and order in the country, and protect the morality of Thai people, he said.
“Police to keep tabs on Line users“, Bangkok Post, August 14, 2013
As usual, no real explanation is given on what actually constitutes a “threat to national security”. The only thing that is transparent here is Pisit’s total disregard for freedom of expression without fear of restraint, seeing it as an obstacle to his work.
Saksith Saiyasombut is a Thai blogger and freelance foreign correspondent. He writes about Thai politics and current affairs since 2010 and reports for international news media like Channel NewsAsia. Read his full bio on about.me/saksith.