BANGKOK — A minister in charge of an “anti-fake news center” was accused by an activist on Monday of spreading fake news himself.
Nearly a week after Digital Economy and Society Minister Puttipong Punnakanta said one person was apprehended in connection with a viral photo deemed to be derogatory toward the monarchy, no further information emerged about the alleged arrest. Suspecting a hoax, a pro-democracy activist filed a complaint of disseminating false information against Puttipong today.
“My investigation found that no one was taken into custody,” Ekachai said. “I believe that the digital economy minister, who is the head of the anti-fake news center, is committing the crime himself.”
Puttitpong did not name anyone when he announced the arrest last week. He said the arrest was made in connection with a photo that appears to show a sign “Fuck you dictatorship” next to a huge portrait of the late King Rama IX.
Police have yet to confirm that any arrest took place at all. Multiple calls to police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen went unanswered.
The woman who took the controversial photo, Pimchanok Puksuk, took to Facebook to say she was not under detention. Pimchanok, who was reportedly forced to resign from her job at a TV station after a wave of criticism online, also said she had no intention to insult the monarchy.
“I’d like to insist that the message on that paper was aimed directly at the government only,” Pimchanok wrote. “I took that shot because I felt that it was the protesters’ message to the government.”
Yaowalak Anuphan, head of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights, said the group did not receive any reports of an arrest related to the photo.
Future Forward Party spokeswoman Pannika Wanich also slammed Puttipong’s characterization of the photo as an insult to the monarchy. She accused Puttipong of spreading “hatred messages” with his interpretation of the photo.