Viral clicks that rocked the boat

Viral clicks that rocked the boat

Sensational online stories were met with mainstream media attention and spurred controversy across the nation

In the year 2018, netizens widely used their Facebook pages and other social media platforms to scrutinise matters of public interest ranging from politics and crimes to social issues.

Below are the top five news stories of the year that spread rapidly through social media before the mainstream media picked them up and publicised them.

The Bangkok Post published these stories after they became the talk of the town. Many people on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms wrote posts and commented on the issues, calling on authorities and people involved to take action.

1 'Prathet Ku Mee' rattles Prayut

The "Rap Against Dictatorship" project released a smash-hit song, Prathet Ku Mee (What My Country's Got), which really got on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's nerves.

The five-minute music video that was uploaded to YouTube a few months ago refers provocatively to subjects considered generally taboo in society. It replicates the gruesome historic scene where a corpse hanging from a tree is beaten as a crowd cheers on, based on an iconic image from the 1976 massacre at Thammasat University by police and right-wing groups of pro-democracy students.

A group of 10 rappers takes turns delivering verses such as "The country that points a gun at your throat, claims to have freedom but has no right to choose," and "You must choose to either eat the truth, or bullets."

Prathet Ku Mee received a great deal of support from opponents of Gen Prayut and the junta government as well as young Thai people, millions of whom will vote for the first time in the election on Feb 24.

However, officials denounced the song. Pol Gen Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, deputy national police chief, insisted it could violate the country's Computer Crime Act by stirring up unrest. Government spokesman Buddhipongse Punnakanta, previously an organiser of the disruptive "Bangkok Shutdown" campaign that led to Gen Prayut's coup, complained the lyrics attacked not only the military government, but also the country as a whole.

Shortly after the Prathet Ku Mee video was released, the government launched an official Thailand 4.0 rap video to counter Prathet Ku Mee, which had almost reached 50 million YouTube views as of press time, with about one million likes and 32,000 dislikes.

Thailand 4.0 features a melodic sampling of the national anthem and lyrics such as "There are many talented Thais, if we work together, we'd be stronger, stronger." and "Gen M, Gen Z, Gen whatever, if you all agree, it'd be easier, easier."

Gen Prayut said he was happy to hear a rap song with appropriate lyrics. He said some of the song's beats could be changed but the meaning of the words was good.

After days of increasing frustration on the part of both the government and police, Pol Gen Srivara finally decided not to take legal action against the "Rap Against Dictatorship" group or ban the song, saying the police could not find evidence to bring unrest charges against them.

2 DJ accused of fetishist cat killing

Late October, a video clip streamed on a secret website operating for people who encourage violence. It featured someone killing a kitten. The story was later grabbed by the mainstream media.

Club DJ Wararat Krasae is pictured at a police station on suspicion of torturing to death a kitten in a broadcast that ran on a website for fetishists. She was later freed on bail after she acknowledged an animal cruelty charge. P.pp.P Twitter

Not long after, animal rights groups and Watchdog Thailand came out to accuse Wararat Krasae, a 30-year-old club DJ of brutally killing an adopted kitten for bitcoins and lodged a complaint with police.

Isaraporn Samutklalin, 29, who represented the group, told Phetkasem police investigators that Ms Wararat had recently adopted the kitten.

Another woman also came out to accuse the DJ of committing animal cruelty against one of two cats she had given to the DJ.

Police questioned Ms Wararat and searched her condominium in Bangkok but found no evidence to support the accusation.

Police earlier said they would have to wait for the results of a forensic examination on the kitten after Ms Isaraporn insisted the DJ hand over the kitten's remains.

In her complaint, she accused Ms Wararat of killing the adopted cat and disembowelling it.

Ms Isaraporn previously wrote on social media about her suspicion that the DJ may have killed the cat in a livestream broadcast on a "dark" website in exchange for anonymous electronic cash.

She said the dead cat was one of four cats which her sister, who is a veterinarian, had put up for adoption.

She said the DJ agreed to take one of the kittens, but when she later tried to follow up on the cat's condition, Ms Wararat denied collecting the animal from the charity group handling the adoption.

However, video footage from a security camera showed she did collect the kitten, Ms Isaraporn said.

After being pressured to return the kitten, the DJ finally returned its corpse saying it had been run over by a car.

Veterinarian Phattharanan Sajjarom, who works for Watchdog Thailand, said a preliminary forensic exam found the kitten's body bore evidence of a car accident.

Ms Wararat is also facing another legal complaint from Nopparat Khamburanawit, who claims the DJ made up a story about how she lost one of the two cats Ms Nopparat sold her.

She claimed the cat ran away from a veterinary clinic in Bangkok.

However, Ms Nopparat said the clinic denied this. The unknown fate of the cat has the woman concerned for its safety.

Later, police investigators obtained evidence against Ms Wararat and charged her with animal cruelty for allegedly killing a kitten for livestream broadcasts for fetishists.

Police said they again travelled to collect evidence from Ms Wararat's apartment on Krung Thon Buri Road and her parents' house in Bangkok's Thawi Watthana district.

Evidence was found on her mobile phones, notebook, CPU and 16 books written in Japanese. Two of the books were found to contain content about torturing humans and animals, police said. Some of the pictures and illustrations were too disturbing to be shown to the press.

Police finally pressed animal cruelty charges against Ms Wararat and sought an arrest warrant. She turned herself in to police but denied the charge. Her case is now being considered by prosecutors.

A luxury condominium towers over Wat Sai in Bangkok. The Bang Kholaem district office has retracted its instruction asking the temple on Rama III Road to tone down the ringing of its bells in the early morning following complaints by a resident living in the condo nearby that the noise was insufferable. Pawat Laopaisarntaksin

3 Buddhists alarmed after bell gripes

Monks have used bells as part of their daily meditation practices, and Buddhists have always been familiar with the sound of the bell they hear from temples in the early morning.

However, in early October, the bell sound story became the talk of the town when it hit newspaper headlines after going viral online.

Bang Kholaem district office under the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) sent a letter to Wat Sai temple on Rama III Road, asking monks at the 300-year-old temple to hit their bell more softly in the early hours, to avoid disturbing the sleeping residents of a nearby, newly-built, high-rise condominium.

The Oct 2 letter was written by Bang Kholaem assistant district chief Wantanee Sawangtrakul, who was acting district chief at the time.

The instructions to "tone it down" created dissatisfaction among Buddhists, who called for the chief of the Bang Kholaem district office to explain the matter.

According to the letter, the abbot of the temple was informed that people in the new condo had complained about loud bell noises between 3am and 4am, and requested that he strike the bell more gently in future.

The condominium complex, the Star View Rama 3, comprises two towers, 44 and 54 storeys high, and looms over the old temple.

However, representatives of the temple, which dates from the Ayutthaya period, explained the monks there traditionally sounded its bell in bursts, from 4am and again from 6pm, during the three-month Buddhist Lent period. This marked the times for the monks' routines.

Phra Somjitto was quoted as saying the resident had repeatedly complained. He finally advised her to file her complaint with police, as he could not reach a compromise with her on the monks' longstanding tradition.

Local police subsequently visited the temple and the monks followed the police request to reduce the volume. The police visit preceded the letter from the Bang Kholaem district office.

Actor Karoonpon "Petch" Tieansuwan posted a message on Instagram saying he was one of the residents of the Star View Rama 3 condo facing criticism for the temple bell issue. He wrote that only one person had phoned the temple, had complained daily and also filed a complaint with the district office.

No one else at the condo was annoyed by the temple's bell, he wrote.

The problem came to an end after the new district chief, Anant Kaipan, who had just assumed office, went to see the temple abbot to apologise for the letter.

4 Lotto vendor sells 'winning' tickets

Thanawat Khamhaengpol, 31, better known as Pete, a lottery vendor, disappointed Thais nationwide when he was arrested for allegedly fabricating lottery tickets and making up a story about selling winning tickets worth 90 million baht.

Mr Thanawat was caught in September after Atchariya Ruangrattanapong, chairman of the Help Crime Victims Club, brought evidence to the Government Lottery Office in Nonthaburi as he lodged a complaint against Mr Thanawat for the charge.

Mr Thanawat made up a story in early September that a customer of his had won first-prizes worth 90 million baht and claimed that he had safely kept and delivered the tickets to the customer who had placed an order via a mobile chat application. The story quickly went viral, and garnered winning praise for his honesty.

He also posted a photo of the winning tickets, and later claimed the winning customer gave him a gift of 100,000 baht as a gesture of gratitude. People turned up at the petrol station wanting to buy lottery tickets from him. Business boomed.

But the man went from hero to zero after sceptics on the internet investigated and found out that the winning tickets were fabricated. Police came under pressure to take legal action against him.

After the arrest, Mr Thanawat admitted the whole story was a lie.

He is now facing charges of fabricating lottery tickets and deceiving the public for personal gain. He is currently charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act for posting false information online, and was released on a 300,000-baht bail by the court.

5 Alleged rape of 12-year-old girl

The father of a 12-year-old girl early this month used his Facebook page to demand police investigate a complaint against five teenagers for allegedly gang raping his daughter in Saraburi.

The father said his daughter did not receive fair treatment after allegedly being raped by the boys at a roadside shop in Saraburi's Muang district early on Dec 14.

Her father said he suspected local police wanted him to "drop the complaint" when they expressed their concerns over the future of the boys.

The girl's father also said a man who claimed he is a member of a local administrative body in Saraburi, and a relative of the suspects, offered to pay 30,000 baht in compensation to his daughter.

He said he was not part of the discussion between the boys' parents and local leaders over compensation, as he was in Bangkok at the time. He only learned of the money issue later from a friend in a phone call.

After the story went viral, the Crime Suppression Division, which has the authority to investigate crime cases across the country, stepped in to monitor the case, while the public demanded the Saraburi police investigate the case directly.

Local police have now arrested five teenagers and are gathering evidence to substantiate gang-rape charges against them.

The band Rap Against Dictatorship came under fire for their controversial song and music video, Prathet Ku Mee (What My Country's Got), seen as a direct attack on the military government. The video has been viewed almost 50 million times. Opponents claim the band aimed to discredit the regime by referencing the Thammasat University massacre of October 1973 (hence why the video was shot in black and white with students protesting in the background). Police studied the lyrics as part of their probe but did not find any breach of the Computer Crimes Act or other laws. Screen Capture : MV Rap Against Dictatorship

Thanawat 'Pete' Khamhaengpol, second from left, is brought to Khok Kham police station in Samut Sakhon. The lottery vendor allegedly fabricated a story that one of his customers won prizes in the lotto worth 90 million baht. Photo from the Facebook page of Pol Maj Gen Surachate Hakparn, deputy tourist police chief


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