As we reported in an article earlier on Monday, the people in Thailand have not been idle, despite the recent coup d’état and the subsequent media blackout. Undeterred by the regime’s warnings, the people in Thailand have been using social media to express their opposition, and even organize protests and demonstrations.
However, the military regime has slowly, but surely, been taking notice of the trend.
To demonstrate, the military rulers have swiftly established a commission, whose main task is to monitor websites and block content that falls foul of military guidelines or Thailand’s Lese Majeste laws.
As of yesterday, Thailand’s Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT), the country’s vanguard against online misconducts, have already banned over 200 websites.
Again, they have reinforced warnings to social media users, reminding them that their online activities are being watched, and that any politically critical or provoking content will be penalized.
To further add to the uncertainty, Facebook users in Thailand got a huge scare yesterday when they were temporarily unable to access the social media site. Initially dismissed as a technical glitch by the Thai authorities, the MICT later admitted that it was a deliberate block.
Surachai Srisaracam, permanent secretary of the MICT, had this to say. “Right now, there’s a campaign to ask for people to stage protests against the army so we need to ask for cooperation from social media to help us stop the spread of critical messages about the coup.”
Thanit Prapatanan, a director in MICT, also added, “We’re blocking access to webpages that could incite chaos, instigate violence or division or pose a threat to national security. We are not looking to shut down Facebook in Thailand as a whole. But if there are any pages that violate the order, we will definitely block it.”
To further solidify their control over the Internet, the military government has already announced plans to implement a single state-run Internet gateway, which will allow them to censor provocative content faster, better, and more efficiently, or as Mr. Surachai helpfully explained, “We want the national gateway to be a more effective tool than the current mechanism for regulating Internet use.”
Interesting enough, there are many in Thailand who do not seem to be too fazed by the latest announcement. According to a discussion thread on Reddit, not only have many already anticipated the move, but they have also actively thought of counter-solutions such as using VPNs and proxies to circumvent the monitoring system.
The situation is set to be a protracted saga that will run on for months, likely even years, and the one with the most to lose will be Thailand herself. Already widely criticized by worldwide politicians and netizens alike, the increasing political unrest will only seek to destabilize every societal aspect of the beautiful Southeast Asian country.
But whatever happens, we can be sure that the people in Thailand will not give up their freedom of expression without a serious fight.
Hang in there, Thailand.