Royalist Thai netizens showed their force online late Thursday night and early Friday morning by tweeting hashtags supporting Article 112 of the criminal code or more colloquially known as the lese majeste laws.
The hashtag #สนับสนุน112 (Support 112) gained more than 22,000 tweets in the past 24 hours with royalists using the hashtag to underline their support for the law and for protecting Thailand’s traditionally cherished monarchy.
The new hashtag was in response to posts over the last 24 hours by pro-democracy activists and internet users which called for the law’s repeal following the arrest of a student-activist (read more here). The older hashtag #ยกเลิกม112 (End Article 112) had gained over 100,000 likes by Thursday evening.
Questions over number of supporters
Despite more than 22,000 tweets, pro-democracy advocates have questioned whether the tweets were real or reinforced by government bots after reports last year suggested the presence of government disinformation campaigns aimed at pushing royalist and pro-government narratives.
It is also unclear how many of the 22,000 tweets were hijacked by pro-democracy voices using the hashtag to disparage pro-112 sentiment.
Wtf is this tag? #สนับสนุน112— sangwoo’s ashes (@nnkk_05) January 14, 2021
I am disgusted by how desperate they are. Wow. Shameless.
Seriously! Do u know human rights? Wtf I have nothing to say but shameless. #สนับสนุน112— ❄️badlyprettygal💗w/lucas❄️lll (@JeongThitiyaSuh) January 14, 2021
Online echo chamber
While the online battle between royalist and pro-democracy forces continued on Friday morning, the hundreds of thousands of tweets calling for a repeal of the lese majeste laws and for an end to outside intervention have yet to manifest itself in tangible, real-world ways.
Protest numbers have dwindled over the past few months culminating in a Covid-enforced hiatus. In local elections in December, the Progressive Movement, widely supported by the student activists, failed to win a single gubernatorial contest.