'Let's move' buzz no threat
The Prayut Chan-o-cha government is getting serious about a popular FB group that provides advice to people wishing to settle down in a foreign country to avoid Covid, get a vaccine jab, and for some, escape government incompetence.
Chaiwut Thanakhamanusorn, the new Minister of Digital Economy and Society (DES), was irritated with the page, Yai Prathet Kan The, or Let's move abroad. On May 4, he tersely warned he would file a lawsuit against those who posted illegal content, as well as comments deemed to insult the highest institution.
The minister alleged that the page has an ulterior political motive, and labelled those with critical views as "nation haters" who want to intensify polarisation.
A working group has been formed under the DES to keep an eye on the movement. The threat prompted the page administrator to open another FB page with a more ambiguous name and private status. Like Move Abroad, the new page is popular, with a large number of netizens, most apparently young and educated, logging in over a matter of hours. At press time, more than 768,000 had logged in the new page.
It's true that several page members are critical of the government and what they regard as its archaic political and legal system that cordones power concentration.
Their wish to run away from Thailand and settle down somewhere else is basically made out of frustration with the system as their aspirations for change are misinterpreted. But are they nation haters, the term coined by right-wing political factions, and as branded by the minister? Not necessarily.
On Tuesday, one netizen, who went by the name Lee Ryuma, posted: "Don't be afraid to be second- or third-class citizens in developed countries. You are not first-class citizen in your own country anyway."
Quite a few foreign embassies, from Sweden and Australia for instance, have projected their countries as potential destinations for those seeking to migrate.
Mr Chaiwut's reaction -- or over-reaction -- to the movement is anything but constructive, while a spokesman for the Democrat Party, Rames Rattanachaweng, has also joined the ultra-nationalism bandwagon, accusing the page of attempting to discredit the Prayut Chan-o-cha government.
Mr Rames is wrong. There is no need to fear anyone discrediting the government if the government performs its duty with justice, transparency and accountability.
But with such a hardline stance, both the minister and Mr Rames ignore advice by Somchai Srisutthiyangkul, a former election commissioner, that the government pay attention to the grievances of the young people, several of whom are the "creme de la creme" of the younger generation and the future of the country.
The Prayut government tends to treat those with different views as enemies. At best, they are alienated, but at worst, some are at risk of being witch-hunted.
An administration that fails to listen to criticism can never change itself for the better, or heed calls for reconciliation and unity.
Under Mr Chaiwut and his predecessor, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, who was stripped of his position after being sentenced to jail for his role as a core leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee during 2013-2014, the DES is putting the wrong focus on its work. Both have shied away from making the ministry instrumental in the battle against Covid-19.
If the minister has so much time on his hands, he should order his team to contribute more to anti-virus efforts, such as developing a more efficient contract tracing app that makes it easier to curb infections.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
Email : email@example.com