Justice is a rare commodity susceptible to malleable laws, uniforms, wealth and family connections.
But the rise of social media in recent years, for all its flaws, has given the public a powerful tool to draw attention to their grievances and sometimes prompt action by occasionally indifferent authorities.
Got scammed by a resort or hotel? Out them on Pantip. Some meth methods to your van driver’s road rage? Post a clip to YouLike. Police not taking your assault claim seriously? Get a hashtag trending.
In many cases netizens simply post videos, images or stories publicly onto Facebook and wait for them to go viral, drawing attention to the latest outrageous crimes or injustices. The social pressure proves effective when organizations risk losing face by not taking action.
Here are some of the year’s stories you probably wouldn’t have heard about were it not for social media.
When six men allegedly murdered a disabled street vendor in broad daylight, police allowed them to go to the hospital instead of arresting them. Four of the suspects were sons of police officers, but when horrifying video of the abject cruelty of what happened that day went viral, they were quickly arrested, charged and jailed to await trial.
Domestic violence remains all too common. While the majority of such crimes are believed to go unreported and unpunished, videos or images of such sometimes end up online of things like a man stomping a 7 year old, a mother beating her daughter and a teacher disfiguring his student. The ensuing outrage forces the authorities to take action. Whether justice is served remains open for debate.
Tired of the potholes in a road near her home in Tak province, a 22-year-old Karen woman took a bath in one and shared the photos online. It worked. Suddenly her road maintenance issue was a national issue, and the officials who ignored complaints vowed to take action.
The military is a powerful institution that sometimes seems above the law. But this year a video of a drill sergeant caning a recruit prompted an investigation, and another video showing a colonel threatening a family in the Deep South led to his abrupt transfer.
Road rage, arrogant celebrities and smartphone cameras: a recipe for a perfect social media storm. That’s exactly what happened when television host Acharanat “Nott” Ariyaritwikol punched a motorcyclist who struck his Mini Countryman on a Bangkok road, and then made him prostrate, or graab, in apology to his beloved car. Society’s near-universal shaming cost Nott his job and saw him charged with assault.
Instead of complaining to school administrators about the child pornography their science teacher was tweeting, a group of students at Suan Kularb, the kingdom’s oldest and most prestigious all-boys public school, exposed him as a predator who actively sought out sex with underage boys. Their evidence against him included screenshots of him boasting of sex with minors and going to a meeting they arranged at a shopping mall. Saroj was suspended, put under investigation and charged with sexually abusing minors.
Meanwhile, viral videos exposing the explosively violent road rage incidents involving bad taxi drivers – a perennial topic – seemed to win swifter responses than filing complaints to the bureaucracy.
Animal abuse has been a reliable trigger for social media rage for some years. But thanks to a stronger animal welfare law and internet-based animal rights activists, police have no longer shrugged it off or issued limp fines. A former politician was charged with shooting a “7-Eleven dog,” and most notoriously, police arrested a motorcycle taxi who smashed at least nine kittens to death thanks to tips from online cat lovers. Panuwat Singhsahat was sentenced to 18 months in jail for animal cruelty.
Two graduate students were on their way to their university north of Bangkok – one to complete his dissertation and the other to apply for a pilgrimage to India – when their car was rear-ended at a speed of 200kph by millionaire businessman Jenphop Viraporn. Moments later they were burned alive when their car burst into flames. It looked as though police would let Jenphop off the hook until social media began seething after the lead investigator went on national television to clumsily defend the decision not to test his sobriety. National police took over, suspended the officers involved, and now Jenphop is on trial.