Thailand’s ruling junta has unleashed a new weapon in its quest to quell anti-coup activism.
Voice of America reported on Monday:
Thailand’s police force is now asking for citizens’ help in identifying those perceived to be displaying opposition to the military coup in the kingdom.
A Thai police general has announced he will give cash rewards to those turning in photos or videos of anyone illegally expressing a political stance. (…)
Deputy police commissioner General Somyot Poompanmoung has announced rewards of about $15 [THB 500] for each picture of such suspects. The police general said he will personally pay the reward for any photographs that result in charges.
“Thai Police General Offers Cash for Snapshots of Dissidents“, Voice of America, June 23, 2014
This comes after a protest in central Bangkok took place on Sunday, exactly one month after the military coup of May 22, 2014 and a little more than a month after the country was put under martial law. Police officers, some of them in plain clothing, were deployed. They detained and later released student activists.
In previous weeks, small but vocal anti-coup protests popped up in the capital, some showing the three-finger salute from “The Hunger Games” movies, reading George Orwell’s “1984” in small groups or just eating sandwiches. Such simple and seemingly innocent actions have met with scorn from the military junta, which has repeatedly warned against any form of opposition to the coup. The warning also includes comments made on social media, which the junta is still struggling to control.
The call to report dissidents is not new in Thailand, as very recent history has shown: In 2010, the government of then Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva oversaw the initiation of a so-called “cyber-scout” program to train volunteers for online monitoring of web comments deemed insulting to the monarchy.
A similar tactic was later used by Chitpas Bhirombhakdi, commonly known as the “Singha Beer heiress” and later involved in the anti-government protests of 2013-14. In 2011, working for the opposition Democrat Party, she urged citizens to email any hints of anti-royal slurs online.
As seen in numerous cases regarding alleged lèse majesté suspects, vigilantism was at least tolerated if not actively encouraged. It seems that the military junta is now expanding it to its opponents and those who do not agree with its takeover of power a month ago.