PM: Transistor radios could help save Thailand. Internet gen: ‘What’s that?’

Prayuth Chan-ocha was back on the job Monday. On his mind? Radios. Photo: Government House
Prayuth Chan-ocha was back on the job Monday. On his mind? Radios. Photo: Government House

Back on the job after the Constitutional Court decided his eight years were only five, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha wowed the nation with the kind of wisdom only available from a military man who came of age in the 1970s.

As Thailand grapples with unrelenting storms and flash floods, the 68-year-old former army commander suggested that people could follow transistor radios in case the power grid goes offline, sending everyone born on this side of the millennium to Google what they were.

The man who is both prime minister and defense minister raised the idea in a Monday conference call with provincial governors, saying it had worked great during the Great Floods of 2011.

“If the system is completely destroyed, communicating would be difficult. A transistor radio may be another way to broadcast to the public,” he said. 

The idea was roundly ridiculed by those who noted that few people own radios today, with some comparing it to Prayuth’s attempt to end call center scams by releasing a song on CD.

Others noted that the junta he led after seizing power in 2014 aggressively stamped out local radio stations, some of which were pro-Red Shirt or used to stoke opposition to military rule.

“When the coup was in its early stages, they were dismantling the community radio stations. Now the flood comes and they say transistor radios are good for flood warnings,” Pran2844 tweeted.

An unusually heavy and sustained wet season, coupled with the arrival of a major tropical storm last week, has flooded provinces throughout the kingdom, from Ubon Ratchathani and Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya and Pathum Thani.

When the eyes stopped rolling, some commentators noted that radio remained an easy and affordable form of communication – if one-way.

“Unpopular Opinion: Transistor radios aren’t that bad, they used to reach certain people better. Just need to utilize modern methods to go along with it,” Castby9arm wrote.

“Seeing everyone scorn the radio, I want to say that when there is an emergency disaster, the radio is the world standard,” Panotr said in a tweet. “In the UK, it is recommended that every home has a Grab & Go bag that contains essentials, and one of them is the transistor radio.”

Sudarat Keyuraphan, co-founder of Thai Rak Thai party, posted a video with a radio in hand. “Those who haven’t bought one, should do so now or the market will be out of stock.”

Nor is it the first time government officials have promoted transistor radios as alternative forms of communication. In 2017, Aomsin Cheewapruek, then a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, said that the government was planning to distribute them to southern flood victims.

A transistor radio is a portable radio receiver that reached Thailand in the 1960s, and radio remains prevalent in some rural areas. Head to any online marketplace, and find plenty in supply.

Government wants to give away transistor radios to flood victims

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