By Thai Newsroom Reporters
THE SECOND ARMY AREA and Internal Security Operations Command have been secretly carrying out information operations against certain politicians and activists who may be critical of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in a sustained bid to defend the army chief-turned-premier.
On the first day of censure debate against the premier and five of his cabinet members at parliament, Move Forward MP Nattacha Boonchai-insawat charged that the Second Army Area has launched an Information Operations Centre based in Nakhon Ratchasima for army soldiers, mostly being non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, to post hate speeches and fake news on Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms against these opposition MPs and anti-Prayut activists.
Dubbed the army’s ”cyber warriors”, those army soldiers have been performing as avatars and carrying out their hush-hush campaign around the clock at the orders of a colonel who heads the Second Army Area’s Information Operations Centre and routinely following and sharing posts on a Twitter page of army chief Gen Narongpan Jitkaewtae, said Nattacha.
The army chief has been found to have some 32,700 followers on his Twitter page while army personnel of a dozen army regiments attached to the Second Army Area have been secretly assigned to follow and share posts on social media on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, he alleged those ”cyber warriors” who are non-commissioned officers and enlisted men have had the most part of their monthly allowance embezzled by their own superiors attached to the Information Operations Centre.
A sum of 7,440 baht in monthly allowance had been meant for each of the ”army avatars” who was practically given only 1,500 baht monthly with the missing sum being funneled to those commanding officers, said the opposition MP citing unnamed sources in the army’s Information Operations Centre.
The Internal Security Operations Command, headed by Prayut himself who is concurrently defence minister, has assigned operatives based in all 20 northeastern provinces to not only secretly gather information about anti-government content posted online but to follow daily movements of outstanding opposition MPs, including Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat and Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome as well as noted political activists and anti-Prayut protesters, according to Nattacha.
Meanwhile, Prayut was criticised for allegedly endorsing violence-ridden clashes which have repeatedly taken place between the crowd-control police and street protesters in Din Daeng intersection area.
Move Forward MP Supisal Pakdeenarunart alleged the premier had endorsed the violent, indiscriminate approaches conducted by the crowd-control police in responding to the independent protesters, mostly being motorcycle-riding adolescents, in the area barely a kilometre from the First Infantry Regiment barracks which houses his residence on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road.
The police general-turned-MP commented that the event in which the police had aimed their rubber-bullet guns and tear-gas launchers at the protesters’ faces, heads and chests evidently manifested a violation of the internationally-recognised procedures for crowd control.
Supisal pointed out the case in which a tear gas canister fired by one of the crowd-control policemen directly hit ”renegade” political activist Thanat Thanakitamnuay which might probably make him blind in one eye. He was among the anti-Prayut protesters who hurled firecrackers, flares and pebbles from slingshots at the police in Din Daeng intersection area.
The police had obviously failed to follow peaceful means in dealing with the street demonstrators whom they had apparently responded to as their ”enemies,” the Move Forward MP said.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha during today’s (Aug. 31) censure debate. Photos: INN News