Police Say No Signal Jammers Sent to Sunday Protest

A police van with a tall column on Aug. 16, 2020 at Democracy Monument. Left: Paraimim / Twitter. A policeman wields a signal jammer gun on Aug. 16, 2020 at Democracy Monument. Right: Ttrx37 / Twitter

BANGKOK — Police say no attempt was made to disrupt the mobile phone signal at the massive pro-democracy rally on Sunday, despite photos circulated online that purported to show jamming equipment. 

Some photos show a van with multiple antennae, while another shows a policeman aiming what appears to be high-tech equipment at the protesters. But a metropolitan police commander said the force did not deploy any signal-jamming devices. 

“Where did you get this information? We don’t even have this kind of equipment,” Maj. Gen. Samrerng Suanthong said.  

One of the photographed vehicles bears an emblem of an EOD unit. But a woman at the Royal Thai Police Bomb Data Center who refused to give her name said the force “had nothing to do with” the Sunday protest, and they did not send a single piece of jamming equipment there. 

Suspicion of jamming equipment were raised when demonstrators at the protest, which drew at least 20,000 people, discovered that their phones were unable to load data, call, or use the internet. 

Khaosod English reporters on the ground at the protest were also unable to use both True and AIS service providers. 

Protest leaders Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak and Tattep “Ford” Ruangprapaikitseree both said they suspected some kind of jamming technologies was used on Sunday to prevent people from livestreaming the protest.

“They don’t want there to be live broadcasts because they think if more people see it, the more people will join,” Parit, a True subscriber, said. “I couldn’t use my phone’s internet connection at all, or even call anyone.” 

During the protest on Aug. 10 in front of the Bangkok Arts and Culture Center, Parit said he also saw similar vehicles that resemble signal-jamming cars. 

“I couldn’t use my Internet at all. My phone even crashed when I tried,” Tattep said of yesterday’s protest. “It’s either on the part of the police, or service providers.”

But a close look at the equipment seen in photos circulated by netizens suggests that none of them was related to the mass signal blackout. 

The EOD van with jutting antenna appears to be an instrument for cutting signals that could detonate explosives. A vehicle equipped with a tall pole is said to be a communication HQ for hundreds of policemen deployed around the protest site. 

What some netizens described as a mobile signal disruption gun also turns out to be a device for bringing down drones. 

Activist Nuttaa “Bow” Mahattana also said she didn’t see any jamming devices. 

“Perhaps signals being jammed are normal when so many people congregate,” she said.