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Thailand’s Government Slowly Moving to Stifle Free Speech

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand issued a statement on Oct. 4, saying, “Preventing a professional journalist from interviewing someone is an unwarranted infringement on media freedom.”

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Thailand has slowly been moving to stifle free speech under Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha’s administration. Gen. Prayut was inaugurated in July following the transfer of power to a civilian government.

Since an activist was arrested for allegedly posting “inappropriate content” on Facebook. Gen. Prayut’s government has been forcing restaurants and cafes to submit the browsing histories of customers who use their WiFi.

Netizens and critics believe the move is apparently aimed at curbing criticism of the government. Saying the country has revived a military-junta-era suppression of the right to free speech.

On Oct. 8th, Thai police announced that they had arrested a man for posting inappropriate content that stirred up hatred on Facebook. He was charged on suspicion of allegedly violating cyber-crime laws involving national security.

Accused of threatening national security

Local media reported that the 25-year-old political activist, who had been criticizing the military government, was arrested on Oct. 7. He was released in the afternoon of the following day on the condition that he would not post similar messages again, according to reports.

There had been a chorus of people on Twitter discussing congestion caused by police blocks of traffic for a royal motorcade. It is said he was arrested because he posted about the matter on Facebook. As a result his post eventually spread widely through social networks.

Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta requested that internet cafes and restaurants submit their customers’ browsing histories from the past 90 days. As he said the data would be also used to search for fake news that could cause social unrest. Seems like the government intended to investigate anti-social forces.

Opposition parties are also subject to controls on free speech

Early this month, the military (Army) asked local police to investigate 12 people. Including opposition leaders who had attended a seminar on constitutional revision on suspicion of inciting unrest.

The request was made because the military said discussion revising the Constitution also “threatens national security.” The opposition parties, however, said they had no such intention.

The 12 people included Sompong Amornvivat, leader of the Pheu Thai Party, the biggest opposition party, which is linked to former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.

Meanwhile, the Thai authority briefly detained a Belgian journalist on Oct. 3 who visited Thailand to interview an anti-government activist and warned the journalist not to proceed with interviewing the activist. The authority above all wish to contain a movement that could transform into something disadvantageous to the Prayut administration.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand issued a statement on Oct. 4, saying, “Preventing a professional journalist from interviewing someone is an unwarranted infringement on media freedom.”

News Source: Stanford Advocate

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