Ex-politician to sue Thai army

A former politician whose party was the apparent target of a disguised online propaganda campaign by the Thai army earlier this year said she and her colleagues plan legal action in response.

Pannika Wanich, former spokesperson for the now-dissolved Future Forward Party, on Friday said they had already been gathering information about the army’s information operations – or “IO” – when Twitter announced on Thursday that it had identified and removed 926 accounts that had unacknowledged or concealed links to the Thai military.

She described the worst aspect of the army’s alleged action to be “using tax money to cause rifts and hatred among Thais”, and said the former party would file a lawsuit when its fact-finding was completed. She did not say what charges against the army it would seek.

Thai media have speculated about the general nature of the army’s IO activities, but Pannika said Twitter’s action proved the allegations were real because the social media company is a neutral party not involved with Thai politics.

Twitter announced that it had taken down accounts with suspected links to state agencies in Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Thailand. Meanwhile, the Thai army insisted that it was not linked to the 926 accounts that Twitter had banned for allegedly attacking the opposition.

Santipong Thampiya, a Royal Thai Army spokesperson, said the armed forces only used social networks to publicise military-related information, particularly when it comes to operations during natural disasters.

He said during natural disasters, platforms like Twitter were necessary to provide updates.

Another army spokesperson, Colonel Sirichan Nga-thong, said the accounts in question had yet to be verified and it was unfair to assume that the army operated them.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, when asked about his government’s use of technology in ways that might violate people’s basic rights and freedom, said he knew nothing.

The Future Forward Party won the third highest number of seats in last year’s elections, but was dissolved by the Constitutional Court in March this year for an alleged financial violation of election law. — AP/The Nation/ANN

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