Sense of Virtual Community in Crisis: 2006 Thailand coup d’etat

Two interesting announcements were released during the coup.

The fifth announcement commanded the ministry of information and communication technology (ICT) to control, terminate, and destroy the dissemination and distribution of information in network information systems that contain harmful message to the democracy reform.

The seventh announcement from the group was about the rule for political gathering. Five (5) People are not allowed to gather for political discussion and talk.

The fifth announcement was kind of vague in terms of practicability. From what I think, the intention would want to target individual websites and webboards and forward mails. That may be the case for Pantip.com deciding to temporarily close Rajchadumnern, the most active political webboard (Note: the board has been criticized as a place for pro-Thaksin folks).

Well, it was not the end of social networking.  I got an IM message from a friend telling me where the Rajchadumnern folks would go for discussion, weekendcorner.  However, I anticipated, because of security and traffic issue, they moved the website from .com to .net and restricted access. Only people who has registered before are allowed to get in. For those who need to register, you have to ask any existing members to register for you.  That does mean you have to know some “insider” to be able to participate. It is interesting to investigate that the community has to transform into “close” model where only friends of a friend are welcome.  I guess there would be a bunch of people that could not get into this community. And I am pretty sure that they are still a number of people finding the “locality” of the community.  It is interesting to see how the locality is moving from one place to another place.  And how they tried to protect themselves by setting the rules and regulations. The ties are mainly from the power of instant messenger.

Based on the seventh announcement, it is quite challenging to control, in my perspective, in virtual settings.  As others may realize, the announcement absolutely focuses on “physical” political movement.  However, they might overlook the power of online meeting. I am sure the phenomenon happen last night (September 19) for those who use instant messenger (and the Internet in general) proving that a control over mainstream medias does no longer totally affect mass communication nationwide anymore.  If the Internet and other telecommunication networks (e.g. landline and cellphone) are not under control, the flow of information would be running explosively.

Another activity that has been discussed in American politics, but never been exposed by Thai politics before, is blogging. Although not many individual blogs exposed the situation, I found out that most links posted on the blogs are directed to international news agencies rather than other blogs, whether individual or group blogs. However, group blogging has played more roles as a number of people focused on live reporting on a common space rather than their own blog. Isriya and Keng expressed his experience (in Thai) in participating in a collaborative live blogging on 19SEP.

Around 10am (Thailand time) on September 20, mainstream medias began running as usual with more news update. The situation looks less critical and panic. The intense of blogging (about this topic) kind of slow down. It seems like people are getting back to the mode to hear from local news agencies again. Although, 19SEP, for example, had the last post on September 20 at 1:50pm, I would like to see how far these communities formed by this situation would go. One may question the sustainability of these communities. However, I do believe (and hope) that once the situation get back to normal, the sense of community among people involved in this situation would still maintain. The task, in this case is to keep everyone updating and help each other verifying the information, may change to something else, at least to further discussion on future of politics in Thailand.

Here is one of the discussions that I think would be going on in the community. Someone posted inn Klaibann (Thai in oversea) forum asking an interesting question “What should we tell foreigners about the situation? (in a constructive way)” [Note: the link may not be archived]. The replies are also interesting..

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