BANGKOK — The junta leader sent a rare message to the public expressing concerns over news and information shared on social media, while the army commander acknowledged that online discourse is “more powerful” than the military’s weapons.
Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha on Monday urged parents and teachers to play a greater role in ensuring that youth are not implanted with “incorrect thinking” on social media.
“There are still some groups of ill-intended people trying to distort news and facts on many issues. Social media is being used and certain groups of people are implanting incorrect thinking among the general public with the aim of creating unrest, and corroding and destroying the nation, religion and the monarchy,” said Prayuth in the written statement.
Army Chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong told reporters on Tuesday that some academics are “implanting” extreme left-wing ideologies on social media in a bid to change the kingdom’s political system. He however acknowledged the power of social media to mobilize public opinion.
“I can’t deny that social media is more powerful than the weapons possessed by the armed forces,” he said, adding that social media is a weak spot when it comes to the army’s engagement with the public.
The message came as doubts over the freeness and fairness of the general election held last month have spread on social media, particularly among youth. Campaigns to remove the Election Commission have been launched by student groups from 12 universities. Social media has also become a space for the expression of critical views against the authorities.
Prayuth said the military junta has always been aware of the situation, but is refraining from using its “special powers.” He said it would instead like to seek cooperation from the public, including parents who should “pay attention” to their children.
“Teachers should teach and build the character of students. Government officials should take care of their subordinates and families. When receiving news, the important thing is that it must be reasonably considered, thoroughly studied. If we all join hands and hearts by protecting the country from being destabilised or returning to chaos, the nation shall enduringly be prosperous and stable,” Prayuth said.
Army commander Apirat added that it’s wrong to create a “distorted” discourse of dictatorship versus democracy in order to divide the people.
“Do they want civil war as has occurred in the past?” asked Apirat, without citing specific events. He also urged the media to convey his message to the public, including to youth.