Thais recently started sharing a hashtag on Twitter #ทวีตอย่างไรไม่ให้โดนจับ which translates something close to #How2TweetAndNotGetArrested. The main purpose of this seems to be to highlight how easy it is to run afoul of the government these days. Using a red bowl, reading a book, imitating a salute from a movie, and even simply liking something on Facebook is enough to get someone arrested in Thailand.
Richard Barrow has been highlighting the trend and mentioned that police may begin arresting people who recently shared the video of the British family who was brutally beaten by a group of thugs.
Barrow says that the police are using the argument that by posting or sharing the video that person is portraying Thailand in a negative light and is thus guilty of a Computer Acts crime.
Again, thanks to Barrow for posting a copy of the amended Computer Crimes Act.
So, pretty much everything on Facebook other than photos of your meal or with your family (or both) would pretty much be off limits.
For most foreigners living in Thailand or even for those just visiting on holiday, the rules used to be quite simple, have a good time but don't insult the monarchy.
And for the most part, that was a fairly easy rule to abide by.
However, the government has become increasingly sensitive to any criticism which is bound to run head-on with farangs who are normally taught from birth that questioning the government is not just a right but a duty of good citizens.
We question our leaders. We mock them every night on late night talk shows. We even have special provisions in our laws for "public figures" which makes it harder for them to sue for defamation. Because being open to criticism is part of being a public figure.
While we hope our leaders and public figures do the right thing because it is simply the right thing to do, the fear of public shaming often serves as a strong motivator when one is tempted otherwise. Or to put it more simply, transparency and openness tends to keep governments honest (or more honest than they would otherwise be).
And, again, up until recent times what us foreigners thought was pretty much of zero concern to the Thai government so our rants on forums about corruption or whatever were never paid much attention. Our voices tended to stay very confined to the expat community.
However, in the Facebook age, posting CCTV footage of some foreigners being savagely beaten for no apparent reason can go viral very quickly. Suddenly foreign ambassadors are making phone calls and wanting to know what happened. Tourism companies begin advising customers to consider other holiday destinations. International media begins writing stories and asking the types of question common in other countries but considered disrespectful in Thailand.
Now us farangs and our ideals about right and wrong are problematic to the government. Not that Thai feelings on these topics are less important but up until recently nobody cared what the farangs thought so it's a new reality that many farangs need to be aware of.
Liking or sharing the wrong thing on Facebook could get you arrested in Thailand. In theory, even giving a bad Yelp review at a local restaurant could be construed as defamation.
For many farangs this is unfamiliar territory. But being unfamiliar doesn't make it any less serious.
Whether you think the laws are right or wrong, at least be aware of them and what the consequences of your actions might be.