BANGKOK — A broadcaster is facing a backlash for uncritically airing a doctored audio clip said to be a conversation between the leader of a popular progressive party and establishment arch-nemesis Thaksin Shinawatra.
In one of two cases of electoral deception being widely discussed today, Nation TV has yet to explain or retract its airing of a bogus recording said to be Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroonruangkit conspiring with exile premiere Thaksin.
Soon after the clip aired Tuesday night on the channel’s Khao Kon Khon Nation news show, it was quickly proven to include audio spliced from old recordings of Thaksin teaching math and sitting for an interview.
“I don’t know if this is about politics. So many people sent me this,” host Kanok Ratwongsakul, a reliably pro-establishment voice, said before playing the clip.
The show displayed what appeared to be silhouettes of Thaksin and Thanathorn while audio played of a moustache-twirling conversation in which Thanathorn is made out to be taking orders from Thaksin.
“Uncle, what’s next? Will they swallow it?” Thanathorn’s voice asks, to which Thakin’s voice replies, “Let’s make it simple. It can be anyone. We just need a position to bargain from. Think of simple numbers.”
“Hmm. How about 20? These kids are easy to convince and trick,” Thanathorn’s is heard saying. “This is how capitalism works. If we have the capital, then they will want us,” Thakin’s voice replies.
Pro-junta supporters alarmed by Future Forward’s surging popularity have sought to cast its leader, a billionaire progressive vowing to rein in military power, as beholden to Thaksin, whose influence over politics has endured despite two coups d’etat.
เนชั่นนี่มึงจะเอาคลิป Fake มาช่วยดันกระแส #อนาคตใหม่ โค้งสุดท้ายเหรอ งานโครตซุย 5555 ขอถามง่ายๆ ถามเลขในใจง่ายๆนี่แม่งตัดมาจากคลิปทักษิญสอนเด็กชัดๆ 5555 #เนชั่นโป๊ะแตก #ใครลูกมึง
ทักษิณ สอนเด็กhttps://t.co/1A18HUAVe3 pic.twitter.com/a3mUZFRfea
— TEMPO773 (@tempo773) March 19, 2019
Nation Multimedia was acquired last year by the same ultraconservative news agency behind right-wing T News and INN News.
Kanok has made no statement on the controversy since it erupted online.
A woman answering the phone Wednesday in the Nation TV newsroom said they would not answer questions about the clip and made a bizarre legal threat.
“I’m not sure if [the TV show] will file charges for you asking about [the clip]. Reporters aren’t supposed to call each other. You should know this,” she said before hanging up without identifying herself.
In an interview with the station, Thanathorn dismissed it as an obvious fake to any listener.
“I never thought a quality media agency would air a clip like this. Airing it shows that the ethics and quality of The Nation have fallen,” he said in the interview.
— Gigamonz5 (@GOTZ101) March 20, 2019
Netizens were also unimpressed by the trickery.
“What Nation and Kanok did is a new low for mainstream Thai media. … These falsehoods and lack of ethics should be unacceptable to other media channels and journalist associations,” the admin of popular socially critical Facebook page wrote Wednesday morning in a post shared 800 shares within an hour. “I gave up hope for neutral media a long time ago. But we should still demand accountability for such actions.”
— TNP (@TheNickplus) March 19, 2019
Some expressed hardcore nationalist sentiments to support the host and station.
“Swords have been swung, cradles have been rocked and my mother lived and died, all on Thai soil. I stand by Kanok and Nation 22 channel,” wrote user Naichunuk NS Mookmai.
Elsewhere online, a pro-junta political party’s doctored photos were inviting nearly as much virtual laughter as scorn.
In now-deleted images posted by the Phalang Pracharath Party, a Tuesday campaign rally in Ubon Ratchathani was treated to aggressive application of Photoshop’s Stamp Tool to create the false impression it was packed with supporters.
The party, which backs junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha’s PM candidacy, has suffered from a lack of enthusiasm and low polling despite massive outreach and a playing field bent in its favor.
Both falseties were spreading online via hashtags #NationPohTaek and #PhalangPracharathPohtaek. Poh-taek is what happens when a traditional fishing trap breaks and all the fish suddenly pour out. It’s therefore used to describe the sudden airing of someone’s dirty laundry.
— 你好, Happiness (@nctzennnn) March 20, 2019
“If other parties did this, they would be disbanded into smithereens. Are you embarrassed at all? #PhalangPracharathParty #PhotoshopParty,” Twitter user @Nctzennnn wrote, referencing the aggressive prosecution of pro-democratic opposition parties.
— GODZERO (@GODZERO95038064) March 20, 2019
@Godzero95038064 edits the Phalang Pracharath party, to become the “Power of Retouch Party.” #PowerofPhotoshopParty is also trending.
— 🥰Tiffany🧚🏻♀️ (@Treekamol) March 19, 2019
“Travolta and Cage also came to the rally,” @Treekamol says in a tweet that shows the one man in the photoshopped crowd with a disjointed face.
— PpPp (@anpktp) March 19, 2019
“Got only a few people? Gotta rely on Photoshop then,” tweeted @Anpktp.
ผมนี่เคยเป็นตัดต่ออยู่เครือเนชั่น 5 ปี คลิปนี้แม่งตัดต่อชัวร์ 100% แต่ใครทำไม่รู้ แต่รู้ว่าแม่งทำโคตรกากกกก ผมวางเทียบ wave เสียงให้ดู แม่งเอามาทั้งประโยค555555#เนชั่นโป๊ะแตก #ใครลูกมึง pic.twitter.com/G0vUOTaxlJ
— Big Aubpakit (@BigAubpakit) March 20, 2019
@BigAubpakit put the doctored clip alongside the original sources.