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Protests

Police deny plans to restrict online access, as media groups issue warning

Maya Taylor

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Police deny plans to restrict online access, as media groups issue warning | The Thaiger
PHOTO: AP / Nikkei Asia
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Thai police have confirmed the legitimacy of a document released by the Free Youth group, which reveals that their Facebook page was targeted by authorities for allegedly spreading disinformation and inciting civil unrest, in breach of the State of Emergency, enacted last Thursday morning.

The Free Youth group have now moved to “Telegram”, a popular messaging and telephony app, after their Facebook page became the subject of scrutiny. However, rumours abound that the government is planning to block access to Telegram, as more activists adopt it as a communication tool. Telegram messages are encrypted and impossible to track.

Meanwhile, several media groups have warned the government not to further infringe on press freedoms, after a leaked order from the government’s Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situation revealed that some news outlets may be in the firing line. The CRES order accuses 5 media outlets of allegedly breaching the State of Emergency and is threatening to remove offending content.

“As it appears there are television broadcasts of contents deemed to threaten national security or good morals by presenting certain contents from Voice TV, Prachatai.com, The Reporters, The Standard, and Free Youth movement, the national police chief, who is in charge of resolving the serious emergency situation thus orders the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry to examine and suspend the broadcast or delete those contents from the computer system in line with their authority and responsibility.”

Local media groups have come out in opposition to the threats, calling on the government to respect the freedom of the press and warning that an attempt to restrict access to information will only serve to worsen anti-government sentiment. In their statement, they also call on all media groups to ensure reporting is fair and accurate and does not incite violence or twist the facts.

Academics from the faculty of journalism and mass communications at Thammasat University, have also issued a statement in which they say citizens have a right to access information and the government should refrain from interfering with the media.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand has also strayed into the exchange, expressing concern over the latest development, which it says, “makes the government appear heavy-handed and unresponsive to criticism, and could stir up even more public anger. Bona fide journalists should be allowed to report important developments without the threat of bans, suspensions, censorship or prosecution hanging over them.”

Assistant national police chief Jaruwat Wisaya says police did refer a number of social media accounts and media outlets to the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission and the Digital Economy and Society Ministry. Jaruwat says officers needed to know if some protesters’ social media accounts, as well as a number of media outlets, were violating the emergency decree.

Jaruwat adds that normal procedures still apply, and police would need to apply for a court order before any suspension of offending media channels could take place. He says a committee formed under the emergency decree will monitor news and information and inform police if action needs to be taken. Meanwhile, the Digital Economy and Society Minister, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, points out that none of the offending media outlets mentioned have been banned.

“Initially the NBTC or agencies concerned will ask them over for talks and urge them to be careful. But the messages (deemed inappropriate and still on the website) should be deleted.”

SOURCE: Nation Thailand | Bangkok Post

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Protests

Thai Constitutional Court official files contempt charge against protest leader

Caitlin Ashworth

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Thai Constitutional Court official files contempt charge against protest leader | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Thai PBS World

A student protest leader is facing charges of contempt after he made statements on Facebook critical of the Constitutional Court ruling to acquit PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, allowing the Thai prime minister and former Army General to continue occupying a military-owned residence. Critics have argued that allowing Prayut, a retired general, to say at the Army residence is a conflict of interest.

Director of the Constitutional Court’s litigation office and police officer, Montri Daengsri, filed the charge against pro-democracy protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak. Montri says the Facebook posts made by Penguin were defamatory to the court and had tarnished its reputation.

In addition to the Facebook posts, Montri says the protest leader made an offensive speech following the court ruling at the Lat Phrao intersection in Bangkok. He says the speech was defamatory and violated Thailand’s Criminal Code. Police are investigating the claims to determine if charges should be pressed.

Prayut occupies a military reception house at the 1st Infantry Regiment residential area on Phahon Yothin in Bangkok, according to the Royal Thai Army. Tenants in army welfare houses have to pay for utility bills while those who live in the reception houses, like retirees, do not pay for household expenses and the utility bill is covered by the Army.

The Constitutional Court ruled this week that Prayut did not violate the Charter by occupying the residence. The court says under military regulations, former officers can remain at their Army residence after their retirement at the discretion of the Thai Army commander.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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Protests

Schoolgirl bursts into tears meeting Panasaya, fearing for activist’s safety

Maya Taylor

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Schoolgirl bursts into tears meeting Panasaya, fearing for activist’s safety | The Thaiger
PHOTO: www.prachachat.net

Protest leader Panusaya Sitthijirawattanakul, aka, “Rung”, has been pictured consoling a young schoolgirl who broke down in tears, concerned about the activist’s safety. Rattapol Kaiipah Promsuwan, who witnessed the exchange, has shared a photo of the moment on social media. She says the girl, who is in Grade 6 (making her around 11 years old), had gone to the organisers’ area during Wednesday’s rally at the Lat Phrao intersection in Bangkok. There, she asked to meet Panusaya, a hero of hers.

The girl’s sister says her sibling has an interest in politics and is concerned about reports that Panusaya faces lèse majesté charges. Thailand’s lèse majesté law prohibits insulting, defaming or threatening the nation’s revered Monarchy, and carries a punishment of up to 15 years’ imprisonment. During her meeting with Panusaya, the girl cried for half an hour, with the student activist trying to console her, and a Facebook photo showing her hugging the child.

Panusaya has received a new summons from the Technology Crime Suppression Division, as a result of a police complaint lodged by royalist supporter, Nitipong Honark, a music composer. She is now being summonsed on December 9, to hear additional charges of lèse majesté and violating the Computer Crimes Act .

Meanwhile, the BBC has named her in its list of the world’s 100 most influential and inspirational women of 2020.

SOURCE: Nation Thailand

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Protests

K-Pop fan-funded billboards move from BTS and MRT stations to tuks tuks to support protesters

Caitlin Ashworth

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K-Pop fan-funded billboards move from BTS and MRT stations to tuks tuks to support protesters | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Twitter: @katipunera

K-Pop fan-funded “happy birthday” billboards are moving from mass transit stations in Bangkok to tuk tuks after the BTS Skytrain and MRT Bangkok Metro temporarily shut down services during pro-democracy protests last month.

The world’s K-Pop fans are weaponising their huge numbers and online ‘power’ by supporting Thailand’s pro-democracy movement. In 3 days last month, Thai and overseas K-pop fans raised more than 3 million baht to support the growing student-led movement calling on government and monarchy reform. A lot more has been raised since then.

A Thailand fan page for the South Korean K-Pop band BTS (not to be confused with Bangkok’s BTS Skytrain) urged fans to stop paying for the “happy birthday” billboards displayed in BTS and MRT stations. The fan-funded signs celebrate the birthdays of the 7 members of the band.

The band members also issued a statement asking their fans (known as ARMY) to stop paying for signs in the BTS and MRT stations because the mass transit systems “inconvenienced protesters and normal citizens from getting home and putting them in danger.”

The “happy birthday” signs have been seen on tuk tuks throughout Bangkok while some have posted photos of empty advertising space in the transit stations.

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