Thailand is in turmoil with media being heavily censored. The country’s military, which staged a coup last week, has warned citizens from voicing opinion against it on social media. And today, taking it a step further, Facebook was blocked for approximately an hour and a half in the country.
Starting 3.30 PM local time, users could not log on to the popular social network, creating an uproar amongst the citizens. Twitter was working fine and citizens took to the micro blogging site to share their sentiments.
Though details are sketchy, the military says that it had no orders to put a ban and what happened was a technical glitch. This is possible, but seems too co-incidental. Additionally, local media claims it is the military’s doing.
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A few tweets suggest that the blocking was the military’s way of putting a stop on protests that were being organised on Facebook.
A statement from the junta, called the National Council for Peace and Order, declared that “there is no policy to suspend or close down Facebook”. It said an inspection found that there was a “technical error” at the telecommunications gateway that connects internet service providers to international circuits, and it had ordered the problem fixed.
Deputy army spokesman Col. Winthai Suvaree later came on television to offer the same explanation and announce that the problem had been corrected.
A media professional based in Bangkok, on conditions of anonymity, shared that people were very alarmed when they could not log in to Facebook as it indicated that worse things were to come for the country, but were somewhat relieved when Facebook became available some time later.
YouTube and Instagram did not face any problems, nor did chat apps LINE or WhatsApp.
Whether this was a deliberate move to thwart the public’s voice or a genuine glitch, we will know in the immediate days to come.
What is next for the country? Will we see other medium also bear the brunt? We are waiting and watching, hoping peace restores soon.