Opinion: The Prayut administration must prosecute those behind the Twitter information warfare campaign

Thailand’s government under Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha must bring to justice those behind the information warfare campaign targeting student protest-leaders and opposition politicians.

Twitter on Thursday released information that the Royal Thai Army was behind 926 accounts on the platform that was spreading misinformation and tarnishing the reputation of opponents of the government. (Read more here)

Now the government has, in the past, made a big deal of using the Computer Crimes Act on people who “spread false information” and “create conflict in society.”

News websites and radio stations have been shut down by the law and people have been jailed for doing something as innocuous as replying to an online message under the guise of national security and not causing rifts in society.

Now that it has been exposed that the Royal Thai Army is conducting a coordinated campaign of misinformation with the aim of discrediting one side of the political spectrum, will they face the same level of judicial scrutiny as previous cases before? Or will their crimes be glossed over because the army and the government are in cahoots. 

If the government does not want to be accused of hypocrisy, then it must prosecute and adjudicate the matter. 

Buddhipongse Punnakanta, the Minister of Digital Economy and Society, has made a big deal about how Facebook posts from opposition protesters and from abroad were tarnishing the reputation of the country and causing rifts in society. 

There are few things that would cause more rifts in society than a belligerent actor willfully spreading libelous information and galvanizing a base that is known for its extreme views and tendencies in the past. 

Will the Minister go after this newly exposed network?

Of course not! This is all an exercise in rhetoric. 

The government will not go after the military because the government is the military.

Because in Thailand there is only one group that is right and one group that is wrong. There is only one group that can act with impunity and one group that gets prosecuted. 

There is no room for pluralism, independent thought, and healthy debate in this country. 

No, Thailand is the country where doublethink is accepted as the norm, where newspeak is the official language. We don’t only have mass surveillance, where those guilty of thoughtcrime faces years languishing in prison, we now have a Ministry of Truth being run by the army.

Because to the generals in charge of this country, there is only one truth and it is spread by a state organ. And no one must question this truth which is being used against kids and politicians that dare question the status quo. 

We’re no longer Orwellian, we’ve evolved beyond that. Let’s call it Prayuthian. And in this Prayuthian society, it seems people like the student-protesters and the opposition politicians have no place at all.

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