The Bangkok Post reports, with the order (reproduced below), the junta’s declaration that it is now “illegal to exchange information on the internet with three prominent government critics wanted on charges of lese majeste.”
The order from the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society “requested all citizens not to follow, contact, share or engage in any other activity that would result in sharing information” with exiled historian Somsak Jeamteerasakul, exiled academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun and journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall. All three live outside Thailand and concentrate some of their energies on revealing information about the regime and the monarchy.
The order states that “people who spread such information, directly or indirectly, could be violating the country’s Computer Crime Act, even unintentionally. This could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years for each contact.”
In other words, this is backdoor lese majeste.
The Post states that the “reason for the letter is not known.” It also expresses its doubts about why these three are considered the most significant of critics.
Amnesty International criticized the warning for showing a “brazen determination to silence dissent.” In its statement, AI “Deputy Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific Josef Benedict said authorities [he means junta] have plunged to fresh depths in restricting people’s freedoms of expression’.”
PPT reckons there is more to be learned about this order. We note that the jittery and angry junta is forever twitchy about monarchy news. However, we can’t help but notice that these critics are targeted at the beginning of a reign of a nasty monarch who is highly sensitive to even the slightest criticism. In this case we can’t but notice a whiff of palace intervention in this.
Update: Amid wide criticism of the “order,” the “ministry’s caretaker permanent secretary, Somsak Khaosuwan, who signed the announcement admitted yesterday that the document was aimed at sending a message to people, telling them about the ‘proper’ use of the Internet and making clear what sources of information should or should not be shared online.”
He babbled that the “order” was “intended also to advise Internet users to use discretion in reading or sharing information.” Yeah, right.
When asked “how the ministry would deal with a possibly large number of people following or making contact with people named persona non grata, the official said it was the responsibility of the … Police.”