Social surveillance in Thailand and the threat to privacy
Sept.22, NY: In May 2014, Thailand experienced a military coup - its second in eight years. A military government led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha seized power and overthrew the administration of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. The Army declared martial law, which was maintained for the following 10 months, and an interim constitution was adopted in July 2014. The declaration of martial law allowed the Thai authorities to take strict public order measures, including reportedly closely monitoring of 'delinquent' behaviour such as eating sandwiches in the street or reading George Orwell's books.
The Thai military government has counted on its police force to monitor online speech in order to curb dissent. But beyond the police force itself, the ruling military government has empowered networks of citizens whom it encourages to denounce those who post online content considered contrary to government policies.
With increased tension between supporters and opponents of the military government, some individuals have also created citizen-led initiatives to spy and inform on other citizens, thereby fostering a network of social surveillance. What does it mean to live in a country where the thoughts you share online, your comments on your friends' social media statuses, the 'likes' you click on as you browse social media sites, can lead you to be imprisoned or worse? The report, entitled Friends, Followers, Police Officers, and Enemies: Social Surveillance in Thailand, addresses this issue by shedding light on the use of social media for intelligence purposes and social surveillance in Thailand and the damaging effects such initiatives have had for Thai citizens' right to privacy.
The Oslo Times International News Network