Just call it the Land of Snitches
Thailand’s ruling junta is offering 500 baht ($15) to anyone submitting a photo of anticoup activities — either taken firsthand or downloaded from social media.
The sinister measure is the latest tool used by Thailand’s military to consolidate power since the May 22 coup — the nation’s 12th successful putsch since 1932. Activists, politicians and academics have been rounded up, censorship imposed and journalists threatened.
“The activities of splinter groups with different views threaten to cause unrest within society,” police general Somyos Phumphunmuang told reporters on Monday. “Army and police officers will only pursue harsh measures against those who are guilty of breaking the law.”
Publicly reading “subversive” literature like George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984, flashing the three-finger salute from The Hunger Games or even the proffering of sandwiches — adopted as the latest anticoup protest prop — now invoke the junta’s wrath. Police officers are posing as journalists to infiltrate protest crowds, and even “liking” critical Facebook posts can result in arbitrary detention.
Saksith Saiyasombut, a respected Thai political blogger and commentator based in Germany, tells TIME that the latest measure could spur “crowdfunded witch hunts.”
“It really shows that the junta is not above using their own people against their own people,” he says, “and also not above giving financial incentives to that end.”
In another disturbing development, missing activist Kritsuda Khunasen — who rose to prominence aiding Red Shirt protesters injured during the 2010 military-led crackdown in central Bangkok — appeared on army TV on Monday evening claiming to be “happier than words can say.”
The 27-year-old vanished after she was seized by soldiers on May 28, but now says she “requested” to remain in military custody two weeks longer than the seven-day maximum martial-law detention period for “safety” and to “feel calm by spending more time” by herself.
She was speaking “under duress,” Saksith says. “Some people have compared it to a hostage video … It really shows that she is not at liberty to say what she really thinks.”
Meanwhile, on Tuesday former Thai Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan launched the Organisation of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy to oppose the junta. “The military regime and its conspirators have no legitimate power whatsoever to govern the country’s economy and society,” he said in a statement.
The E.U. has suspended both official visits to Thailand and its Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the country.