Kanok Ratwongsakul (Left) and Teera Tanyapaibul (RIght)

Thai military-owned channel reports fake news on Ukraine

Two far-right hosts recently drafted into Channel 5 have claimed that people were faking casualties in Ukraine. A simple Google search shows that their footage of dead bodies was taken from a climate change protest in Austria on 4 Feb. 

The misinformation was disseminated on the Lao Khao Khon (Telling Intense News) programme hosted by Kanok Ratwongsakul and Teera Tanyapaibul on 28 Feb when the hosts asked the audience to look at a video clip of moving corpses. 

"...Do you see the body bags lined up behind the reporter? Some bodies are still moving," said Kanok.

"Or was it hot?" asked Teera, laughing. 

The smug hosts exchanged words as they claimed that they were debunking fake news on Ukraine. 

"Ah, so he was trying to say that behind me were corpses, is that it?"

"Yeah, like Russia was so brutal. Russia has bombed us for 4-5 days. People died. Take a good look, viewers, behind me are all corpses and understand that ... yeah, the corpses were hot, so they were moving about. Oh, viewers, it is not believable now."

The fact that the corpses were moving is correct. But they were performing in Vienna to raise awareness that climate change is killing 48 people every day and it had nothing to do with what was going on in Ukraine.  

Teeranai Charavastra, a freelance reporter, posted on his Facebook page that the false claim could be checked with a simple Google search. The footage can be found in an OE24 report by Marvin Bergauer, a Germany-based reporter, who covered the story. 

The Print reports that the same misinformation about the Ukraine's humanitarian crisis had already been spread – and debunked – in other countries. According to Bellingcat, an open source investigative outlet, "over 650 instances of fake news relating to the war in Ukraine have been detected and debunked by #UkraineFacts, a project involving 63 fact-checkers in 52 countries."

The two far-right hosts referred to Sutin Wannabovorn, a Facebook user who posted the false claim in an attempt to discredit Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for being a former comedian, a talking point among the Thai far-right.  

The same footage of activism in Austria had also been used to falsely claim the existence of "crisis actors" as conspiracy theorists believe that the severity of Covid-19 was fabricated by the governments. 

In debunking the false claim on Facebook, Teeranai called on the National Press Council of Thailand and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association to take action as the hosts have violated their code of ethics by misleading the public and reporting with bias. 

"The actions of the two hosts just creates confusion for people who watch the news, and may lead some people to mistakenly think that the news they received about deaths of civilians in the invasion of Ukraine was staged or fake. This turns into distortion of the wider public's understanding through a state-run media channel," said Teeranai.   

According to the UN, at least 227 civilians have so far been killed and 525 injured in Ukraine.  

The Thai government voted to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the United Nations General Assembly on 2 March despite sympathy for Russia from members of the Thai establishment. Myanmar, which still represented at the UN by the anti-coup Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, also voted to condemn Russia despite an earlier pro-Russian statement from the military dictatorship in Naypyidaw. 

Kanok Ratwongsakul and Teera Tanyapaibul, loved by the Thai ultra-royalists, were among four hosts who joined Channel 5 in January after being given renewable 1-year contracts to do what the channel's Director called "pulling firewood out of the fire", claiming impartial and unbiased coverage. 

Thai far-right activists and supporters, including Dr Rienthong Nanna, a leading supporter of Thai Pakdee Party, have recently expressed support for Vladimir Putin. Their justification often invokes a royalist version of a historical episode when King Rama V paid a visit to Tsar Nicholas II in 1897 in a desperate attempt to save the kingdom from being colonized.

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