2Bangkok Situation Update: Pantip.com Rajadamneorn forum closed - May 15, 2010
Pantip.com's political discussion forum has been closed because of the political turmoil. This is not the first time the forum has been temporarily shut during times of political high tensions. While this is a form of self-censorship, it is also seen in the Thai world as being responsible. Thais are taught from birth a mantra of "unity" for the nation. The heated and free-wheeling discussions on the boards, filled with invective and threats, strikes at the heart of Thai expectations that society should be united.
Such venues for free and anonymous speech have yet to be integrated into accepted Thai norms. As it stands now, they are regarded and used as just another tool of brute force political campaigning.
It was widely suspected that during the Thaksin government years, legions of paid posters began flooding forums with pro-Thaksin comments and systematically threatening those with other opinions. This was thought to be part of the overall plan to tame media opinion of the government.
Later, discussion of the monarchy became an issue. It was clear that many Thais were genuinely interested in a reasoned discussion of the institution in the safety of a forum interface, but it was unclear where the lines were going to be drawn.
Then, in 2008, a proliferation of anti-monarchy websites and other rhetoric appeared. These were generally allowed to continue without official interference until the Democrat-led coalition came to power and a new mass blocking program began in earnest.
Whatever the right and wrong of this, it is certain that the authorities (and Thai society) will continue to be extra sensitive about these issues considering the place we are in this era and with the Red Shirts fighting in the center of Bangkok.
It is also always worth noting how limited internet penetration is in Thailand. However, even those in the most remote areas can receive constant SMS updates on their mobile phones from the news gatherer of their choice.