In August, Thai army chief General Prayuth Chan-Ocha was named Prime Minister of Thailand. This followed a coup in May where he took control of the country. Since then he’s been steadily making changes. he has chartered a new constitution, filled the legislature with hand-picked members, and is now increasing expectations of PR efforts on behalf of the government and the military.
Gen Prayuth has asserted he finally went forward with the coup when “the violence in Bangkok and many parts of the country that resulted in loss of innocent lives and property, [which] was likely to escalate” forced his hand. He has also stated his current interests are in moving his country forward, continuing to honor the royal family and keep peace.
Some sources report this new PR push offers the next step in the Thai government’s efforts at getting Internet companies to back its demands for censorship of comments against the military and the royal family. Facebook and Google both denied these requests; however, Line, a Chinese app with wide popularity in Thailand agreed to consider specific requests, Line has also stated it will always put user privacy first.
The newly-instituted changes include a more active internet presence for all state agencies and the military. It also adds a new commission overseeing PR efforts within Thailand, and a 10-point plan for the commission to use as their directive. The new commission, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), run by a team of spokesmen including Col. Winthai Suvaree, who was already in place and Col. Piyaphong Klinphan, a deputy chief of the 11th Military Circle. Piyaphong is reported to have skills in both PR and public speaking.
The team also includes assistant government spokesmen Col. Athisith Chaiyanuwat and Col. Thaksada Sangkhachan. Both men have worked at the government press house since May.
The 10-point plan advocates improvement of Facebook pages, websites, and all other forms of media assuring government organizations are current and fully incorporated with various social platforms and digital technology. Additional requirements are that agencies monitor any negative comments or press and respond immediately to mitigate the problem and limit damage, to prevent allowing harmful press to have any long-lasting impact.
In a related effort by the PM, a new television series has been introduced to the people, called Kae Klong Ratchathammanoon Mai (translated as Unboxing the New Constitution). Rather than diving right into the new constitution and its information, the first episode of the program outlined the objectives to be accomplished in following episodes.
The pilot is being aired both morning and night every day until February 15, except for on Fridays, when the PM addresses the people in his weekly broadcast, Khuen Khwamsuk Hai Khon Nai Chat loosely translated as Returning Happiness to the People of Thailand. So the constitution program is skipped on Fridays.