When truth is missing from the land of (pretended) smiles

 
On Thai television, Thailand seems very normal and Thais seem to be happy under the coup d’état. There is very little resistance and Thais seem to have adapted very quickly to the new regime. One slight difference is that the short documentaries publicizing the king’s dedication are aired more frequently. There are occasional interruptions to allow for the announcements of the coup makers. And all TV channels must air a special 15-minute programme by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta's administrative body, at 6 pm every day. The daily programme shows how the coup makers are working very hard to follow the slogan of coup leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha “Resurgent Happiness” for the Thai people. 
 
Until recently, a 20-minute-long video entitled “Resurgent Truth Thailand #1” was circulated on the social media. 
 

Teaser of Resurgent Truth part 1 with English subtitles. (If you have problem turning on the subtitles, please see here)

“While the junta created the “Resurgent Happiness” campaign, people actually live in fear,” said a representative of the group, who asked not to be identified due to safety concerns, but who will be referred to in the story as Somchai.
 
“The junta put guns to people’s heads and force them to smile with happiness. Some people may be really happy, while another group can’t even say that they aren’t happy,” he said. 
 
While opposing the coup runs a serious risk of being arrested, people should at least access the truth of what really happened or “another side of truth” which is forbidden under the military regime.   
 
“While the coup makers try to present the image that detainees have been treated very well, that’s not the point. The point is that this is a violation of people’s rights and freedoms. Some people face more charges. Some people were arrested because they did not report. This is what the coup makers want people to forget.”  
 
Logo of the Resurgent Truth
 
In the first video of the series, the group interviewed the activists who organized anti-coup reading activities, a lawyer from Thai Lawyers for Human Rights who provide legal aid to people affected by the coup, a group of volunteer observers of human rights violations, the students who were arrested and released for organizing anti-coup sandwich-eating and reading activities, an ex-detenee, etc. 
 
Most of them tell their stories of how and why they got involved in the activities and how they think of "happiness," forcibly given by Gen Prayuth, while the junta's song "Return Happiness to Thailand" of which lyric was composed by Gen Prayuth, is played in the background. 
 
The video has stirred debate in Thai society. Unsurprisingly, the video was blocked by the MICT or the Ministry of Internet Censorship Technology, as it is called in Thailand, within less than 24 hours after it was published. This is added to more than hundreds of websites being blocked earlier. 
   
So far, at least 454 people have been officially summoned in Bangkok and an additional 57 informally summoned in the provinces.  At least 178 have been arrested. Of these, 55 were apprehended during public demonstrations. Among the 214 individuals who have been detained and then discharged, most were detained for seven days. The authorities have charged some of the individuals arrested with the serious crimes of sedition and lèse majesté. Moreover, they will be tried in military courts. 
 
Somchai said the group is composed of people from various professions, including media professionals, creative directors, videographers, and activists. 
 
Apart from Resurgent Truth, Reporters Without Censors, an underground media group, has been established. The group said the anonymity of group members would allow uncensored reporting. 
 
While Somchai said his group does "not want to say that the activities are aimed at opposing the coup”, Reporters Without Censors explicitly said their mission on uncensored reporting is to defy the junta. 
 
“Our activity is to defy their demands, while they want us to remain docile and follow their instructions. Believe only them. Consume only controlled media. We give an alternative which does the opposite of what is instructed, to oppose the junta,” said a representative of Reporters Without Censors. “The junta wants all Thai citizens’ brains to suffer from malnutrition, so that their brains are empty and ready just to follow orders. 
 
Truth, fear and happiness 
 
Photos from Resurgent Truth #1
 
On 24 June, military officers visited the newsroom of a Thai-language newspaper, and instructed the editorial staff not to report the establishment of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FTHD), an anti-coup group in exile.  
 
The issue was later discussed during a meeting between media representatives and the junta representatives. 
 
A representative from a right-wing newspaper seemed to be very frustrated with the junta’s hesitation to intervene in the media’s editorial decisions and proposed that the junta tell them directly what to report and what not to report. "The NCPO's order that media should exercise 'judgement' is too vague."
 
Gen Udomdej Sitabutr, Deputy Commander-in-Chief, in his capacity as the Secretary-General of the NCPO told the media representatives “The media should carefully exercise their judgement. Do you wish to see people who think differently like this in society? To be frank, I think you should not report [about the FTHD] because they’re the same people. If you report about it, there’ll be a problem. Ok, I agree that you may have to at least say something about it. But not the full content because then we’ll face the same conflict.” 
 
The general’s words, quoted by the Post Today, reflect the mind-set of the junta, and most importantly, of coup leader Gen Prayuth, that differences and conflict are undesirable in Thai society.    
 
It also reflects the junta’s belief that if they can suppress political activists, silence all different voices and censor differences, the colour-coded conflict will be dissolved. What Thai people should do is to put faith in the junta, blindly believe and follow the junta, and happiness will return to the land of smiles.    
 
The junta’s song - lyrics by Gen. Prayuth - captures this idea very well: 
 
“We will do as promised. Give us some time.
Then the land will be beautiful as it was before.
We will be honest, so you should just trust us and have faith in us. 
The land will be alleviated. 
I want to return happiness to you, my people”
 
Happiness has become a buzz word in Thailand. But under the gun, who could possibly say anything else? Only happiness and approval is allowed to be reported, not fear and disapproval. 
 
While people are living in fear, “Telling the truth is the easiest and the most sustainable way of opposing the coup,” said Somchai.  
 
The full video of Resurgent Truth #1 with English subtitle. (If you have problem turning on the subtitles, please see here)
 
Suluck Lamubol contributed to this report.

Read related news: Roundup: human rights violations after the coup