Future Forward spokesperson Pannika Wanich faced a storm of online attack over the weekend after a Facebook page posted her graduation photo from 2010, which shows Pannika in her graduation gown looking at a picture of the late King Bhumibol while a classmate points at it, along with the caption “this should not have an explanation”.
Pannika Wanich (center)
Pannika claimed that the Facebook page was an intelligence operation for the NCPO. She said that she took the photo with her friends for fun around the time they were graduating from Chulalongkorn University in 2010, after the military coup in 2006, a time when many people were accused of being anti-royalist.
“My friends and I grew up in that environment of political conflict,” Pannika wrote on her Facebook page. “As political science students, we were following these phenomena with concern. Often, using the monarchy in political attacks, dividing the people to make them hate each other, or causing witch-hunts became ironic.
“After the 2006 coup, it was very easy for people who disagreed with the coup to be accused of not being loyal, and it was very easy to land someone in jail because they’d been accused of being anti-royalist.
“This hate-mongering caused a lot of questions for young people who grew up in the post-coup era. Sometimes it became a thing we joked about to reflect the bitterness in Thailand’s political tragedy.”
Pannika admitted that taking such a photo might not be appropriate and apologized for it. She also asked that people stop using the monarchy as a tool for attacking political opponents and that they should stop going after her friends.
“This is not for myself but for the secure and long-lasting future of the constitutional monarchy,” Pannika wrote. “Many people often use the status of the monarchy for their own gain, thinking only to destroy their own political opponents without considering the political capital they are losing.”
Pannika’s Facebook profile has since been set to private, after right-wing netizens also dug up her old pages claiming that they show anti-royalist sentiments. Meanwhile, the hashtag #savepannika is trending on Twitter as netizens shower her with support and point out that she also wrote a tribute post following the death of King Bhumibol. Many people raise questions over the Thai discourse regarding the monarchy and the way that even the smallest of monarchy-related incidents can lead to a witch-hunt.
More on legal charges against FFP
Not only was the FFP subjected to several legal attacks even before the election, since she became MP, Pannika has become the target of attacks from the pro-junta coalition. Just last week, she was called out for wearing a black-and-white ombre pantsuit to parliament instead of an all-black outfit.
Earlier today (10 June), assistant police chief Lt Gen Piya Uthayo also said that the Technology Crime Suppression Division, the Legal Affairs Division and the Special Branch of the Royal Thai Police Office will be conducting an investigation into whether Pannika’s social media posts violate the computer crime act and criminal law.