Media War

exposing media bias in Thailand

Bangkok battle is over, online battle rages on – Updated on May 27th


It’s getting very ugly on the streets, but is just as ugly and dirtier online

– Jesada Chandraprasert

While the protests might be over, no one can guarantee our safety in cyber space

– Bangkok Post

In previous post I’ve tried to compare 3 main kind of media and their role in Thai political unrest. Now I’ve decided to focus more on what is called “Alternative media“, or more exactly “social media“.

I’ll not repeat what already was covered in MSM (both local & international) and in blogs –  just recap that  red-shirt protest has ended after bloody crackdown, resulting  (just only officially) in some 88 deaths  and hundreds of wounded. UDD protesters  practically were forced to surrender, their leaders announced it from the stage and asked them to go home. So they did, after long night in supposed “sanctuary” of Buddhist temple under hail of deadly sniper fire, which left at least 6 of them dead (those whose bodies they were able to pull into temple’s premises).

After that followed swift and  enthusiastic “Clean-up” by Bangkokians, to erase any signs of memories of red-shirts from the streets and to bring city back to “normalcy” and “business as usual”  merriment.

However on-line battle goes on at full rage, to such an extent that  there are SO MANY writings about it all over  media, both locally & internationally,  both in MSM & Alternative media (blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc). The number of article is so big that I guess that I’ll just  list them here without too much quoting:

The Power Of Information (Times of India, May 17)

Internet penetration in Thailand amounts to barely a quarter of the population. And tens of thousands of red-shirt(s)… are not typical web surfers. But with some 2.5 million Thais on Facebook and 39,000 Twitter subscribers, the country is set for amplifying information. The government shut down the TV station friendly to the demonstrators but the Red Shirts were still connected by a stream of tweets and videos relayed by cellphone text messages...

Online groups represent all sides of political divide (Bkk Post Apr 18)

Now, there are about 3 million Facebook users in Thailand.

mostly Bkk post tries to propagate pro-gov groups and use the information it mentions as sort of evidence of  idea that these pro-gov groups are right. that’s briefly.

then fellow blogger writes on Apr 20 :

Social Media “Under Thorough Watch” In Thailand

Blocking anti-government websites is one thing, but to prevent the freedom of speech social networks provide would provoke a huge, angry public response

many people used Twitter & cell phones during days of conflict, here is one photo (also from Twitter) of soldier @ Silom road, using his cell phone to keep up with latest news :

Soldier in Bkk read news on cell phone

Naturally Thai MSM are not at all happy that alternative media  rival them in providing information, thus some of them, as Nation  here, express great displeasure :

Bloggers need to take truth seriously (Apr 20)

it is actually “Letters to Editor”, one of which includes matter about CNN published article about Nation’s photos which some readers accused of being doctored. Nation was swift to retaliate and provide their own evidences & explanations. later their “love affair” with CNN has grown into whole much bigger war and now is widely discussed online, I guess can call it “CNN saga” 🙂

Another interesting thing, last year during protests in Iran after their elections, there was so called Iran’s green “Twitter revolution” – briefly, many people especially in the West  have expressed strong solidarity with Iranian protesters (who in later multiple analysis were actually found to be not so much pro-democratic as it was earlier presented) in their helping them to relay the news as well as “visually” showing it through masking their Twitter avatars into Greenish color, or with green ribbon:

or    

I remember so many people, even and especially famous (like I follow Paulo Coelho), showing their support in this way – there were SO MANY greenish avatars that time in June 2009 ! This time however there wasn’t  any “reddish” avatars used at all on Twitter as show of support for Thai pro-democracy protesters. However pro-government supporters have grabbed & used this idea perfectly, creating their own similar thing “Support Thai People” through adding Thai flag to one’s Twitter avatar :

Of course, this on-line campaign is by pro-gov supporters, which means  anti-red-shirts, who’re anti-gov protesters, therefore in such a way they practically implied that  anti-government protesters  are NOT  THAIS  if they protest against government, and only those who does support government (and has Thai flag on their avatar, LOL ! )  can be considered Thais at all. Which is of course  a total absurd nonsense – nevertheless, has played a HUGE role in massacre that followed (because the further logic was – “they are not even human, so, can kill them without remorse”;  it was and still is widely all over internet, openly and often furiously expressed even in English and especially so in Thai).  one can easily see such avatars with added flag on Twitter – you someone didn’t know what it means before, now you know. 😉 That actually this on-line “Support Thai People” movement  actually comprises loose, shall we say, association of all sorts of people who might be different, but have one sure thing in common : they are anti UDD (aka “red-shirts”)  protesters. They call themselves “Multicolor” (well, that is minus red of course – those later re-defined as ABN aka “Anything but red”) or “No Color”. I reality though,  most of them are  “yellow-shirts” (PAD)  in disguise, so to say. thus I prefer to call them “chameleons“.  😀

The subject of “color code” is a huge separate matter which requires some further digging, because  it reminds me of the familiar trend in the other parts of the world in recent years for so called “color coded revolutions” and it is quite curious thing, directing towards some suspicions that perhaps  what’s going on in Thailand in last 4-5 years is not much different with those other countries, or played out by similar scenario? (read about “orange”, “rose”, “tulip” revolutions on Wiki,  attempted “green” revolution in Iran last year was already mentioned above) If indeed there is some sort of valid relation, then it would  hint on the purpose which shouldn’t be much different from that in those other countries (namely, a “regime change”, using a common term of US foreign politics). So far somehow I haven’t seen much or at all anyone trying to analyze it.

Alright, more articles :

Twitter provides latest news on Bangkok political violence (May 19)

YouTube, Twitter revolutionize coverage of Thai crisis (May 20)

The “Thai Crisis Snapshot” Theory (May 17)

This one is very interesting, attempt of amateur yet thorough research of the Tags & keywords used on Twitter in relation to Thai protests, and accordingly the trends etc.  author calls it not a “Tag-cloud” (as usually it is called on blogs, or another word is Wordle) but a Snapshot.

The online social ugliness of Thailand’s conflict (May 18)

This article is closer to the main subject of this post, title itself shows what is it about, main premise, which somewhat reflects what I wanted to say here, is:

Thailand’s current crisis is not only being fought on the streets and alleys in central Bangkok with the help of on-scene reporters and ordinary citizens caught out in the battle grounds…

It’s getting very ugly on the streets, but is just as ugly and dirtier online as users hide behind screen names and avatars while slandering the opposing side with accusations and threats.

Read few comment there as well.

Next is article by reporter who provided very good tweets & regular MSM news:

Twitter’s role in Bangkok conflict unprecedented (May 21)

Never before has a social media website played the kind of role in a conflict that Twitter has played in Thailand‘s nine-week-old anti-government uprising, keeping people informed even as it amplified the hate on both sides of the country’s divide. Some say Twitter – or rather its users – may have even saved lives as fighting consumed the streets of Bangkok.

More clearly, it was used by propagandists on both sides to get their message out, and by ordinary Thais to express their frustrations at the situation and to warn each other about which areas of Bangkok to avoid as the city descended into urban warfare. With many websites censored and Thailand’s traditional media deeply divided into pro- and anti-government camps, it arguably became the only forum where you could get a clear picture of what was really going on.

here is comparison with Iran (“Twitter revolution“), which other articles didn’t mention:

While Twitter was used by the opposition in Iran to organize rallies following last year’s hotly disputed election, it was, for the most part, a one-sided affair with millions of tweets supporting opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi’s claim to have won the vote, and few backing the legitimacy of President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad…

In Thailand, Red Shirts hoping to bring down the government fought a tweet-for-tweet information war with backers of Mr. Abhisit’s government. Twitter also hosted front-line reports from veteran war correspondents, first-time freelancers and ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire.

This is true, this time, unlike last year, anti-gov protesters (UDD or “red-shirts”) has prepared much better their whole PR team with high-speed internet, laptops, all other tech support which allowed on-line Live streaming video , as well as English speaking members and even official spokesman Sean Boonpracong who gave several interviews to leading international news agencies.  However I must comment that  actually many or most of those people on Twitter who fought what author of this article calls “tweet-for-tweet info-war”  – were actually foreigners and Thais who live abroad, and only some well-to-do Thais who reside in Thailand (of course actual statistics will hardly ever be known), not the “red-shirt” protesters themselves.  Because in reality, most of red-shirt protesters simply don’t have neither computers nor smart phones nor internet literacy, nor even interest or desire to I’ve decided to dedicate a separate post to the matter of  protester’s own “media” network – since in my opinion it actually doesn’t fit into any of known so far  types of media, including the “Alternative Media” (or social networks as Twitter, blogs, Forums & Facebook).

Another thing is true:  many people, both Thais and even foreigners, have contributed greatly to the amount of Live, often instant, information right from the sites of actual events – to such an extent that  many Thai & Western MSM  have greatly relied in their reports on such tweets, and have appointed  at least one or several persons who would watch those Twitter updates as well as tweet their own  (often  spin, as mostly in case of Nation).

As full-time reporters, some bloggers got shot, one of them is seriously wounded and still slowly recovering  in hospital in Bangkok   – so, practically many of them risked their lives to provide  realistic factual information to all those people, mostly foreigners, who could ONLY learn what’s going on from  such on-line reports !

alright, other articles :

The Role of Twitter in the Bangkok Protests (May 14)

Assessing the role of the internet in the Thai protests (May 19)

An iPhone, Twitter and the Red Shirt Rally (May 5) – this article with many photos is one of the most active Twitter reporters who was praised a lot by many, as well as high quality photos.

Jon Russel has several articles on his website about this subject, latest one is :

Politics Drives Facebook Membership In Thailand Past 3mln Mark (May 21)

article from Bangkok Post, which mentions social media and gov’s plan for further control of it (“independent monitoring”  LOL !) and more self-censorship :

Impassive police, reckless media (May 24)

Reform of the media, as proposed by the road map, is also needed. The government believes some behind-the-scenes figures used the media to serve their own interests and provoke violence during the protests. While the UDD leaders instigated the street riots directly, powerful supporters were stirring up the public on their behalf, in messages delivered in mainstream and social media. They helped arouse protesters’ anger, which led to clashes with soldiers, arson attacks and the looting of property. The government plans to establish an independent media monitoring organisation as part of the road map. It says the changes are aimed at preventing the media from being used to create social divisions. PM’s Office Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey has said the body would not interfere with any media outlet’s operations. The government hoped media outlets would censor their own reporting to avoid the need for changes to the law.

The public needs to know it can rely on the police for help in time of need, and that they will carry out their duties under the law as directed. The public should also know it can have faith in state media. The law prohibits the media from fanning the flames of public disorder or trying to undermine the state. Before the government acts, media outlets should assess their role in coverage of the protests, and ask whether they did not step over the line in allowing some agitators too great a say.

Well, this certainly provides some glimpse of whole atmosphere, isn’t it ? 😉

As well as explains a lot why alternative media plays such a great role in Thailand.

Nation’s article by perhaps their only moderate reporter :

Media the new battlefield for reds and yellows (May 18)  – its’ main subject though is not internet bu community radio stations, although no less fierce battle.

again Bangkok Post :  Riots spark frenzy on net pages (May 23)  – as usually mostly tries to promote pro-gov on-line groups, touches upon Twitter and Facebook, but also mentions Thai Forum Pantip and latest interest – Google Guru.

next article is by foreign newspaper :

Thailand’s red shirts and yellow shirts battle it out on Facebook (May 24)  – particularly about on-line extremism by certain groups.

The revolution shall be tweeted (May 25)

Another fellow blogger has few posts (even if in sort of  “unorthodox” style 🙂 ) :

Foreigners involvement & how do they feel?

Jon Russel-UDD blocked site gets 1+ mln hits in past month

You Tube deleating videos at Thai gov request – then Thai military use what left on You Tube to attack protesters

Thai Facebook under attack-Political Pages and Groups Zapped

Bilingual foreigners playing key role in Thai big brother info society

There are many other articles & blog posts out there which I couldn’t possibly find all (especially all the comment & tweets on FB, Twitter, forums, etc), but I think one can already get some idea. So, I guess  I’ll conclude with linking to few of BP’s posts :

The Thai fenqing (May 25)  – interesting insight about Thai “online vigilante” in parallel with typical Chinese phenomena (I guess similarity is mostly due to the fact that majority of pro-government supporters and yellow shirts  are … ethnic Thai-chinese ? )

Why are Thais watching the foreign media? (May 24)

Riots spark frenzy on net pages (May 24)  – yes, it is his reflection on Bkk Post article mentioned above.

Is CNN’s coverage really biased? (May 18)   – about open letter to CNN blaming it for “bias”;  this post has got almost 300 comments ! thus I think it is a perfect example of “frenzy” unleashed by pro-gov “online vigilante”  on one of the best and most  balanced blogs about Thailand !  the follow up on this post is :

The Nation reprints the open letter to CNN (May 19)

Well, this whole matter of  furious anger  at CNN has created “waves” all over internet, with many various reactions and further actions, groups and replies. It has even come to such extent that Thammasat Uni has organized a seminar (?) fully dedicated to the matter of  how to make CNN accountable for its “biased coverage”.  Here is one satirical response to that :

Open Letter to Foreign Journos

I guess that should be enough to get the picture.  The online battle still rages on, so I’m gonna get back  to Twitter to follow what’s going on.

UPDATE  May 27

somehow I’ve missed this latest Bangkok Post article, which I later found mentioned on UDD’s  FB page:   Why the govt lost to the UDD on the tech battlefield (May 26)

The protesters’ movement was bolstered by a surprisingly sophisticated media campaign to make sure its followers were kept informed – and emboldened – over cyberspace…

During the recent political unrest in Thailand, an intense war of information has been waged between the government and its opponents, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), in cyberspace… it is believed that the UDD has adopted more advanced technology than even the government...

then follows some technical jargon, no doubt to make excuse more convincing…

then later conclusion in the end:

To tackle the matter, the government’s security team suggested using a new technique called “In-depth intelligence information gathering” and the established in-depth IP package analysis technique. It has been suggested to the government that it considers setting up a cyber security intelligence team to support in-depth correlation analysis and also implement Common Lawful Interception Architecture (CALEA) at Thailand Internet Core to facilitate in-depth analysis of malicious Internet communications. This would be carried out under the umbrella of the national-level cyber security council.

UDD IT team comment on  Twitter :

We are flattered that the government think like this!

someone has commented on last part of article :

In the end the ICT is asking for more money. Crooks!!!

I bet it is exactly so.  All the technical jargon is merely to sound convincing, but the essence of it all is  to justify for public  further budget spending – as if it wasn’t already  too much (Bt5 billion only back in 2007, then how much more after that? ).

Most fresh response by Prachathai website to this article :

Prachatai’s response to a Bangkok Post article (May 29)

Finally, here are some  tweets  received on Twitter :

@Mediawar The problem is, we are all volunteers, we kept People Channel opened far longer than anyone imagined...

@mediawar It is easy being a Monday monring armed chair quarterback and do not have CRES out to get you!

@mediawar The PADshists and this government have referees on the sideline helping their game, they have unlimited the resources but at the end, they can not alter the fact that over 88 are killed and almost 2000 are injured and as times go on, no PR can alter this fact!

@mediawar I like to think that with no budget, we talked to major international media and got our messages across that way. As far as farang journos, they impacted some, not as much as they thought. Euro Parliament condemned Thai Government several days ago, And at the end I do not think we did it too bad.

@mediawar If you analyze it as a game of basketball ball where excitement happens every minute then we lost decisively, but if we analyze it like soccer, we are down 0-2 at half time, but another half is to be played.

@mediawar 555 I am a lot thicker skin than you think! Naive, I am not! I can easily say the same thing about your limited world but I will not. Our sides had no clues what the modern media war is, I just like to think that while twitter is important, there are larger world out there that one need to talk to!

@mediawarSpending more money to have a team like Abhisit, Panitan, Buranat, Satit, and Thepthai did not win a single heart and mind of the Reds.

Let’s me ask you this!   The Nation twit so much, how come no one renew their subscriptions.

ASTV and Nation must  twit to maintain their bases, but we are gaining substantial Yellow converts with facts ! 🙂

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May 26, 2010 - Posted by | Anti-establishment, Fallacies in Thai Media, Media Control, PAD-watch, Thai MSM | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by James , James . James said: RT @MediaWar: [Blog] #Bangkok battle is over, online battle rages on http://bit.ly/cg2tn5 #Thailand #redshirts #social_media #twitter #facebook #UDD […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Bangkok battle is over, online battle rages on « Media War -- Topsy.com | May 26, 2010 | Reply


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