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April Fool Day jokes in Thailand again under surveillance

 The Technology Suppression Crime Division of the Thai police is keeping an eye on the forthcoming April Fool Day in a general election year.

Police from the Technology Crime Suppression Division worry that the English love of annual fun on April 1 has been adopted by Thais on social media in the last few years.

So they are again reminding everyone this week that the (vague) computer crimes act lays down penalties ranging from 100,000 baht fine to five years in jail for false data which is likely to damage the country’s security, or might cause a panic, or could simply damage other people. To date, no actual prosecutions have ever occurred arising from the first of April’s “speak play” or “poot len”, howbeit with a couple of near misses.

The advent of coronavirus in early 2020 led to a spate of long lasting Fool jokes about protecting yourself by drinking cow urine or sleeping with a sliced onion, but police expect this year to see a switch to politics with a general election due in mid May.

For example, the current prime minister general Prayut Chan-o-cha was first parodied as Times magazine’s “man of the year” in 2017 in a falsehood which has appeared regularly in Thai social media ever since. And Thai political humour can be a great deal nastier than that.

Last year, ThaiVietjet was threatened with prosecution after staff without permission posted an April 1 hoax message about a new air route to Germany which, some said, insulted the revered monarchy.

In 2021, a Thai citizen was ordered to take down a Facebook account which claimed without evidence that there were earthworms instead of meat in a popular burger. Several people ended up in hospital after reading about what they had just eaten. One even tried to sue the social media platform.

Fortunately, most Thai April Fool jokes haven’t attracted official attention. There have been “fun” reports in the past that tuk tuk rides in Bangkok would be free for one day, that the latest ice cream flavour was pork chunks and that shrimp cocktail was now a popular choice in the Kit Kat chocolate selection.

Foreigners have also joined in over the years to claim variously that Thailand was changing from driving on the left to the right, that the last survivor of the Titanic had died on Jomtien beach and that the 90 day address report for expats had been abolished.

According to Martin Wainwright, author of The Guardian Book of April Fools Day, one sour note is that genuine news coming out on April 1 may not be believed. In 2004 Google launched its email service with huge 1-gigabyte inboxes which many thought was a joke and technologically impossible at the time. Google later abandoned all April Fool jokes because of the confusion they can create. You got that one right, Big Brother.

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