Choking on smog, Thais wonder why ‘Mr Google’ PM can’t solve it

Photo: Wecaree / Twitter
Photo: Wecaree / Twitter

The smog cloaking Bangkok again today provoked a fresh eruption online, with people wondering if the prime minister was too busy using Google to deal with the kingdom’s very real problems.

Internet-lit Thais continue to take umbrage at Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha for using his first public speech at a global nonprofit in New York to say his countrymen make Thailand worse because they don’t know how to use Google. The foul air, a recurring and persistent problem the government has responded to feebly, stirred online fury anew Monday.

“Why do we even have a government when it doesn’t benefit us whatsoever? They didn’t even issue a warning [for today’s smog]. Instead, Prayuth spends his time Googling, while people die…” @AoRizy tweeted this morning.

Months after much of the unhealthy smog that shrouded the capital city lifted, pollution levels have been spiking again, with air quality this morning worsening to an “unhealthy” 181 on the World Air Quality Project.

It was a continuation of a weekend’s worth of quips, rants and insults hurled Prayuth’s way ever since he told an audience in New York that although big-shots such as himself use Google, his benighted people did not, contributing to his nation’s problems.

“We country executives use [Google]. Young people don’t really use it, which is why problems occur, because they don’t learn,” the 65-year-old former junta leader said Wednesday at the Asia Society in a speech interrupted several times by Thai protesters. His word choice was widely interpreted to mean all Thais, not just the youth.

Prayuth was in New York for the UN General Assembly.

The online outrage even saw #PrayuthGetOut trend again after debuting earlier this month when he addressed parliament.

Internet erupts with #PrayuthGetOut as Thai PM rants in parliament

Prayuth sounded straight outta the year 2000 when he explained his deep insights into what a search engine does. 

“I used Google even today,” he said. “Whatever I want to learn about, I type it in and so many results come out.” 

Prayuth was in New York for the UN General Assembly. Back in Bangkok on Monday, he responded to the widespread criticism today by saying people were “distorting” his words. Prayuth said that he didn’t mean to imply Thai people didn’t use Google or know how, despite literally saying just that.

He says he simply wanted to recommend Thai people to use the search engine that, by all accounts, they are very familiar with.

“That’s all I said! People have been interpreting it and talking about it so much, it’s messed everything up. I’m not trying to go against anyone,” he said at today’s dedication of the MRT Blue Line extension.

“Do you think I don’t know have the information about Thai citizens’ phone usage? Or how much they use Google?”

In an official recording of the Asia Society event, Prayuth’s Google rant comes about an hour in. Asia Society Executive Veep Tom Nagorski had asked what he believed would kickstart Bangkok’s sluggish economic output. Prayuth mentioned agriculture and then, perhaps remembering his whole “4.0” platform, took a sharp turn to talk tech.

“One of the most important is that Thai people need to learn to live with technology and make use of social media,” he said, adding that digital media can be wielded for good or bad. That’s when he started gushing about his amazing command of the world’s largest search engine.

In the intervening days, the ensuing outrage even saw #PrayuthGetOut trend again after debuting earlier this month when he addressed parliament.

The speech, originally pored over for the attempted disruptions by Thai dissidents, quickly led to a storm of hashtags including #MrGoogle and #PrayuthGetOut.

Some people even made the effort to demonstrate just how wrong Prayuth was.

Photo: Aqicn
Photo: Aqicn

Tech site Blognone on Saturday posted one analytics service’s report showing that Google was the most-visited site in Thailand – even more than Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. 

Opposition leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of the Future Forward Party also weighed in, saying that he teaches his children to be mindful of the accuracy of what they find via Google.

“Instead, Prayuth uses the information he finds on Google to look down on people. … A good prime minister shouldn’t insult the public like that, nor should they use Google to manage their country,” he tweeted.

It’s difficult to find support for Prayuth’s comments online, but then there is always pro-establishment firebrand PM Parina Kraikup.

She jumped in to defend Prayuth, restating his absurd and baseless argument that “people don’t really use Google. … Prayuth is right.” In several Facebook posts since Friday, she went on to name “other people” she believed don’t use Google, including all of “the opposition” as a whole and her own father.

“Today, I called my dad to follow Prayuth’s advice and to read Google because I actually listen when adults give me advice instead of starting drama to create division among Thai people,” she wrote Friday.


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Internet erupts with #PrayuthGetOut as Thai PM rants in parliament

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