The Shape of Things to Come

The revised Computer Crime Act has introduced the novel offence of ‘distorted information’.  Once the Act comes into force, any information which is transmitted online, like these articles, and which is deliberately false, can serve as the basis for a criminal prosecution. 

Now satire, the stock in trade of columns like this, involves a judicious mix of the true and the deliberately exaggerated, distorted and just plain imaginary.  The foibles, shortcomings and hypocrisies of public figures are exposed to ridicule in the hope that failings will be recognized and improvements made, all in a spirit of humour and goodwill.

Well, humour maybe, and not always that much goodwill.

And expectations that the authorities will be able to recognize satire for what it is (something that escapes some general readers of this column, it must be admitted) have been dashed by the sudden revocation of bail for Jatupat ‘Pai’ Boonpattararaksa for making ‘satirical’ remarks about the government.

So this article is an experiment in how things will have to be written once CCA 2017 is gazetted and the humourless mind-controllers subject us poor hacks to increased scrutiny.

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When the chief of the Metropolitan Police Bureau Pol Lt Gen Sanit Mahathavorn was appointed as a new rubber stamper at the National Legislative Assembly, he was obliged to declare his assets and liabilities to the National Anti-Corruption Committee (NACC).

He seems to have been not whit abashed to reveal that he was taking 50,000 baht a month, or over half a million a year, from Thai Beverage Plc, the multinational brewer and distiller that produces Chang beer and Mekhong and Sangsom spirits.  Its founder, Charoen Sirivadhanabhakdi, is reportedly Thailand’s second richest entrepreneur.

You might think it a strange arrangement for a ranking member of an organization with the power to control the sale and distribution of your advisee’s products, and of their competitors’, and to bring criminal charges for a range of related crimes, from drinking outside hours to driving under the influence to drunk and disorderly.  Conflict of interest at the very least, if not prima facie bribery and corruption.

Apparently not.  Our corruption-intolerant administration says that, funny as it might sound, no rules have been broken.  Certainly no laws.  Now if the police officer had been running ThaiBev in his off-duty hours (what? At 50K a month?), then that would put a different complexion on matters.  But just advising?  Nah, take what you can get, seems to be the accepted modus operandi.

[ALL THE ABOVE IS FAIR COMMENT ON PUBLISHED FACTS BUT NOTE THAT REFERENCE TO GENERAL PRACTICE SUBTLY INSERTED INTO THE LAST SENTENCE.  THIS IS A CUE FOR THE SATIRE TO START.]

This must be what motivates so many officers in the Immigration Bureau to trouser monthly retainers from outfits offering instant visas, marriage licences and round-the-corner photocopying services for those documents that you never needed a copy of before. 

[THIS IS SATIRE.  IT IS NOT TRUE BUT INTENDED TO SHOW WHAT COULD HAPPEN IF THE SANIT CASE WAS TAKEN AS AN EXAMPLE BY OTHER SECTIONS OF THE ROYAL THAI POLICE.]

High-ranking officers in the Traffic Division similarly have their monthly income boosted by fees for advice given to the makers of ‘extra-long red’ traffic lights, radio stations targeted at audiences stuck in traffic jams, and the manufacturers of face masks that don’t actually protect officers from inhaling pollutants as much as from identification in potentially incriminating video clips of bribe-taking.

[THIS IS STILL SATIRE AND IS NOT INTENDED IN ANY WAY TO IMPLY IMPROPER ACTIVITY BY ANY MEMBER OF THE ROYAL THAI POLICE, LIVING OR DEAD.]

In fact, the practice of supplementing government salaries with backhanders from the private sector extends far beyond the police force and even into the highest echelons of government.  While it is formally acknowledged that the state has subcontracted the administration of the country to the military (who can all claim second or even third salaries for the extra work), what is less well known is that the military themselves have hired outside agencies to carry out what would otherwise seem to be legitimate government functions.

One such undisclosed company, Big Brother Inc., staffed, as far as can be ascertained, by well-placed active and retired ‘Big’ members of the armed services, is reportedly the recipient of substantial government pay-outs for what their invoices list as ‘attitude adjustment services’, ‘drafting of repressive legislation’, and ‘PR exculpating relatives of the PM’.

[THIS IS ALSO SATIRE AND IS CLEARLY SO OUTRAGEOUS THAT IT COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE … OH, HANG ON A MINUTE …]

 


About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).