Thailand's government continues to make life miserable for its citizens. Pretending mass censorship and broken encryption are just the price citizens have to pay for a "secure" nation, the government has turned the internet into a minefield for critics and political opponents. This is all on top of a lese majeste law that criminalizes badmouthing the king, which would be horrible enough on its own.
Thanks to the leader of the free world, the term "fake news" is now being deployed to put people in real jails for sharing content of dubious origin or not in alignment with the official narrative. Shutting down criticism by deploying anti-fake news laws is a horrendous abuse of government power. But even legitimate uses of these laws are still troubling. Should the sharing of actually fake news be a criminal offense? The Thai government says yes.
A spokeswoman for the Future Forward party said on Tuesday that a representative of the ruling military junta had filed a police complaint accusing Pongsakorn Rodchompoo of violating the Computer Crime Act, which carries a penalty of up to five years in jail.
Pongsakorn has admitted sharing an article that accused a top junta official of buying cups of coffee for 12,000 baht ($377) each, but says he deleted the post within minutes after learning it originated from a website promoting fake news, Future Forward spokeswoman Pannika Wanich said.
Five other people were also arrested for sharing the fake story, but it's definitely a boon for the government in power when the law takes out a political opponent. Literally unbelievable, the government says the fake story -- which detailed government overspending that didn't actually happen -- posed a "threat to national security." Conveniently, the charges target the leaders of a political party current challenging recent election results.
If fake news is the new speech-damaging dodge, "national security" is the trusty standby -- one that's been used to increase censorship and surveillance all over the world, not just in nations run by hypersensitive authoritarians. The Thai government may be saying stuff about fake news and national security, but the real motivation is keeping its opponents quiet. Charges have also been filed against Future Forward party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for "putting false information online." The Guardian notes that Thanathorn is a "particularly articulate" critic of the Thai government and military.
And, because all of these new laws just aren't enough to keep every critic silent, the nation's criminal defamation law is still being used in particularly petty ways.
Thailand’s army chief, General Apirat Kongsompong, has ordered officials to file defamation charges against a former police chief who is running for prime minister after he made remarks regarding the many decorations on the general’s uniform...
Presumably, keeping the general's chest free from criticism will result in a more secure nation -- one run by some of the most insecure people in the country.
Filed Under: fake news, free speech, oppression, politics, thailand