Thai coup: As TV screens go blank, social media works overtime

Once the National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC) was formed after the seizure of power by Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha on Thursday, normal broadcasting on all TV channels was stopped, and everyone stayed tuned to social media for minute-by-minute updates. Social-media timelines were flooded with new messages every second.

Not only people, but mainstream media, both TV and newspaper operators, also monitored social media both to gather and deliver news and updates to their audiences.

The online channel was the last one available for news updates as all other media were suspended under the orders of the NPOMC. Some TV channels, including ThaiPBS, broadcast live on YouTube for two hours on Thursday evening after the coup. It rapidly gained almost 160,000 viewers before it was ordered to stop.

Free analog TV channels except ThaiPBS reportedly were to resume yesterday.

The NPOMC did not miss using social media as a tool, either. It used Twitter, @ArmyPR_news and a NPOMC Facebook page to send out messages and stop rumours about its announcements. As a two-way communication channel, many critics posted comments as well.

On the consumers' end, many social-media users posted that their lives were proceeding as normal. Some posted messages in a hilarious way.

Although the NPOMC later issued an announcement prohibiting mainstream media and social-media users from disseminating any provocative messages, otherwise their services would be cut and they would be punished, there seemed to be little change in users' content.

Discussions among people with different opinions continued, some with harsh words.

Initially many said they had expected the coup. Many posted comments on the coup situation, some stayed in tune for news updates, and some re-posted useful information, including the NPOMC's announcements and those concerning public transport. The latter related to the BTS Skytrain, MRT, bus services, Airports of Thailand, and road closures by the traffic police. Announcements by department stores were also passed on.

Over time, many complained about the NPOMC's shutdown of regular television shows and that the agency was getting on their nerves by playing its patriotic march songs again and again on every channel.

On Facebook, Tully Piyakiat wrote: What number should I call to request some song? I want to listen to "Phi Bird" and "Phi Bee".

@chaochao_peep: Now is the time when Thai TV channels are presenting the sharpness as well as the colours of the pictures to demonstrate their quality of digital TV broadcasting.

Thanis Sudto: (With NPOMC name on the TV screen)

Daughter: What [does this say]? (And many questions)

Father reads for her and answers her questions.

Daughter: I want to see cartoons, cartoons only.

Father: OK, OK.

Uraiwan Norma: To go backward, forward or going down, I don't know. I follow the order strictly: to live life normally. I have sticky rice, fried pork, fried chicken and wonton soup as dinner.

@poundhydra: Revolution declared. Should I go to work?

@patinyar: It's called coup d'etat, to be correct.

@momoko_queen: If the military took over the power to reform, can it be called a revolution?

@nuuneoi: In situations like this, it is best to create a crowd-sourcing application which can identify the locations of military tanks, so people can take selfies.

@namnoon: I would like to propose "Love Thailand Fantasia", [with] leaders of the conflicting sides staying together under the same roof. How to make them love each other? Broadcast live 24 hours a day. I bet lots of advertising will come.

@Atinont_Ch: The power was already overtaken. Both sides should be eradicated. We should eradicate all bad politicians and go back to square one.

Some Facebook users protested against the coup by changing their profile pictures into a black screen. They also set up new Facebook pages to counter the coup.