News / Asia

Thai Army Targets Hearts and Minds with Stickers, Selfies

Soldiers hold roses given by supporters at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 27, 2014.
Soldiers hold roses given by supporters at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 27, 2014.
Reuters
A soldier smiles awkwardly as a woman hands him a flower and kisses his cheek. Farmers hold signs praising Thailand's military and a song plays out on radio stations urging love, peace and unity.

This is a slice of the daily staple of propaganda from a junta determined to win hearts and minds and reassure Thais their country is in safe hands, on the road to recovery a week after a coup it said it staged to prevent a descent into chaos.
 
Protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers during anti-coup demonstration at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 28, 2014.Protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers during anti-coup demonstration at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 28, 2014.
x
Protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers during anti-coup demonstration at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 28, 2014.
Protesters scuffle with Thai soldiers during anti-coup demonstration at Victory Monument, Bangkok, May 28, 2014.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), as the junta is formally known, has been mixing soft power with rigorous security and censorship, asserting its influence over the airwaves while gagging independent media and warning the press against negative coverage of the armed forces.

Terrestrial television has been dominated by light-hearted images of a supportive public donating snacks to troops and posing with them for “selfie” photos. Recruitment advertisements for a mighty army have been ramped up, sandwiched between commercials for car batteries and fertilizer.
Soap operas are filling a void left by now-banned debates on current affairs and the NCPO has its striped logo displayed in the corner of the screen.

The various channels air synchronized broadcasts that explain the putsch, showing prominent supporters of the ousted government smiling and seemingly well treated in detention.

“The military is using television to maintain and show its control but I can't see it staying like this for too long. It's too rigid and will have to change,” said a professor at a Bangkok university, who asked to remain nameless as the junta had summoned some academics after they spoke to journalists.

“Media professionals aren't used to this and won't allow it to continue indefinitely. I know they're not happy at all.”

Coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised broad and vague social, economic and political reforms but no timeframe for a return to democracy.

'We love the army'

The military council has quickly set to work to revive an economy that wilted during nearly seven months of political turmoil.

The first thing it did was to start making long-overdue payments for rice sold to the state in a subsidy scheme that went badly wrong, hoping perhaps to win over hundreds of thousands of farmers, the support base of the ousted government.

Thai PBS channel aired a 30-minute talk show on Tuesday about the former government's ruinous policy and how the junta had made it a priority to secure funds to pay farmers. It repeated the program the following day.

That message of military benevolence has been reinforced with looped footage on morning news of farmers emerging from banks counting fistfuls of notes and others sporting “We love the army” stickers, holding placards thanking the new government for paying up.

The propaganda machine is in full swing to discredit anti-coup demonstrators, with bulletins interrupting programming to ask the public to resist what they say are inducements of 400 baht ($12) offered via Facebook to attend protests.

“You can't get home because of these bad people,” a policeman on a loudspeaker bellowed at hundreds of commuters watching a rally on Tuesday at a Bangkok traffic hub where protests against the coup have taken place daily.

The police announcements accused demonstrators of being unpatriotic and chided foreign journalists covering the rallies who “don't understand Thailand.”

The Public Health Ministry has weighed in, too, warning Thais of the perils of paying too much attention to news, which could adversely affect their mental health.

“People at risk of such stress are advised to follow only the news from state-run news,” the ministry said, quoting its permanent secretary, Narong Sahamethaphat.

“If one feels stressed, has difficulty sleeping, has a headache or becomes easily irritated, he/she should consult the stress clinic at public health establishments or call the Mental Health Department's hotline.”
 
  • An anti-coup activist called for a weekend rally to defy the military government's ban on demonstrations. Here female riot police arrive at Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 30, 2014.
  • People make their way past a line of Thai soldiers guarding the street near Victory Monument to prevent anti-coup demonstrations in Bangkok, May 30, 2014.
  • Soldiers watch as police officers are reinforced to prevent an anti-coup demonstration at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 29, 2014.
  • Soldiers stand guard at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 29, 2014.
  • Soldiers and police guard the Victory Monument, after anti-coup protesters were forbidden to gather there, Bangkok, May 29, 2014.
  • A man walks near police vehicles at an empty Victory Monument, where anti-coup protesters were gathering on previous days, in Bangkok, May 29, 2014.
  • Thai Student Center for Democracy members raise their clenched fists during a protest against the military coup, Thammasat University in Bangkok, May 29, 2014.
  • Protesters scuffle with soldiers during a rally at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 28, 2014.
  • Protesters scuffle with soldiers during an anti-coup demonstration at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 28, 2014.
  • A riot police officer is carried by colleagues after he was knocked down by an object thrown by protesters during an anti-coup demonstration at the Victory Monument in Bangkok, May 28, 2014.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

China-India Border Standoff Continues as Leaders Hold Summit

New Delhi accuses hundreds of Chinese soldiers of illegally entering Indian territory in disputed region of Ladakh More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
May 29, 2014 1:07 PM
Once beautiful Thailand will become the new North Korea.

In Response

by: Morgan Freemix
May 29, 2014 2:39 PM
Oh no! Where will our hipsters go backpacking now??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid