On Friday, the military junta that overthrew the government in Thailand warned it was considering shutting down social media websites countrywide. The coup leaders said that if any citizen is to step out of line and “incite violence” or become critical of military personnel, the new ruling authorities would not hesitate to pull the plug on popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
According to AFP, the revelation came in the form of a bulletin Friday in which coup leaders laid out several new restrictions on Thailand’s citizens. The bulletin suggested “cooperation from social media operators and all involved to stop such messages that incite violence, break the law or criticize the coup council.” The message continued, “If we find any to be in violation, we will suspend the service immediately and will summon those responsible for prosecution.”
The military leaders immediately took over the media, mandating all TV and radio stations cut off their programming and direct all attention to army broadcasts. Controlling the broadcasting streams is a popular tactic seen throughout history when a government is overthrown. The military rationalized this methodology by announcing it was only to ensure the broadcast of “accurate news to the people.” Shortly thereafter, popular international television stations such as CNN and BBC obliged to the militaries’ demands and ran the army broadcast. The army television station featured short announcements and patriotic Thai songs to fill the remaining time.
While originally denying that a coup d’état was in the works (which, historically, is standard protocol when a coup is happening), Army General Prayut Chan-O-Cha confirmed the coup Thursday in a live television broadcast to Thailand’s citizenry. General Chan-O-Cha said the coup was necessary to restore stability due to political unrest in the capital city Bangkok.
The Thai ruling military has instituted a nationwide curfew that is effective from 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. local time. Citizens are required to remain in their homes during the entirety of the nightly curfews. According to coup leaders, the curfew is to remain until further notice.
On May 16, the US State Department released a travel alert for citizens planning to visit Thailand. The advisory noted US residents should take caution when traveling to Bangkok due to political and social unrest.
On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a press release that he was disappointed in the Thai military, noting that it was wrong to “suspend the constitution and take control of the government.” Kerry warned, “this act will have negative implications for the U.S.-Thai relationship, especially our relationship with the Thai military.”