It’s not hard to find fiery comments foisting blame for our pandemic woes on the government. By procuring an insufficient number of vaccines, offering little financial support to businesses, and making last-minute announcements, the government has frustrated many. Even—gasp—Thai celebrities have increasingly reached for their pitchforks and torches lately.
But be very careful what you say next, says the Minister of the Digital Economy and Society.
On July 21, Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn warned public figures and online influencers not to spread news that could damage the government’s reputation. Referring to a recent protest led by pro-democracy groups, Chaiwut claimed that there are at least 147 accounts on Facebook and Twitter that have violated the Computer Crimes Act.
Under section 13 of that law, anyone who posts information that harms national security or causes public panic is subject to imprisonment of up to five years and a fine not exceeding B100,000, or both.
“You’ve said that people died because of Covid-19, because the vaccines [we sourced] are bad. Don’t just look at one side of the story,” Chaiwut said during a press conference. He also asked for understanding from the public as the government tries to rein in the current out-of-control outbreak.
“The government has tried everything in its power to obtain an adequate number of vaccines. If you look at other neighboring countries, Thailand is now ranked as the second-most vaccinated country in ASEAN. We have done everything we can to control the rising cases. But we need everyone’s support and encouragement in combating this disease,” he added.
His comments only drew further ire from netizens.
“If you look at what the government has provided us recently—be it lockdown restrictions, some petty money that people cannot use freely, or vaccine delays—I don’t think what people are saying is fake at all,” said Purim Rattanaruangwattana
, a Thai singer and actor with over 400,000 followers on Twitter.
Thai London-based Youtuber PEACHII
also responded to Chaiwut’s comment on Twitter.
“The government must look at the situation from the other perspective as well. Stop treating people who question your policy as enemies. Acknowledge your mistakes and try to fix them. If you can’t, then swallow your ego and let other more capable people do the job instead.”
Today, Thailand again shattered its daily record of Covid-19 cases with 13,002 while tallying 108 deaths. Meanwhile, the country has administered over 10 million jabs, far short of the 100 million it is estimated the country will need to reach the uncertain threshold of herd immunity, in which around 70 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.