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Thai Premier Spams Nation, Prompts Consumer Outcry 81

patiwat writes "Newly installed Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's first act was to send a spam SMS to tens of millions of Thai cell phone subscribers. The message, signed 'Your PM,' urged people to help him solve the Thai political crisis and respond with their postal code at a charge of 3 baht (10 US cents). The new premier was criticized for violating privacy regulations."
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Thai Premier Spams Nation, Prompts Consumer Outcry

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  • Was it one of those "Cast your vote" messages?

    • by Potor ( 658520 )

      I got one of those [mobileactive.org] from Thaksin in February 2005 when I was working in Thailand. From what I remember it was a sort of scam, because the transmitting telephone company, still owned sub rosa by Thaksin, got paid for all those SMSs.

      The link above is a bit confusing; it refers to an SMS for the 2006 election, but the 2005 election was held on Feb. 6 (that's my birthday and alcohol sales were banned as of noon Feb.5, so I remember it quite well, and not without some resentment ...).

  • Not really spam (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geek ( 5680 )

    People over use the word spam these days. All the new PM did was try to rally his people to a cause. It was in bad taste perhaps but seeing as how Thailand doesn't have the type of emergency broadcast system we have here in the USA I'd think this isn't totally uncalled for.

    If he had made this a habit and over used it then I would call it spam, but this looks like a one time deal during a genuine state of emergency. I wouldn't call that spam personally.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Spam can be considered any kind of unsolicited electronic contact if you didn't provide your number personally and it was also sent to thousands of other people.

      • Re:Not really spam (Score:4, Interesting)

        by dov_0 ( 1438253 ) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:51AM (#26233791)
        Maybe we could view electoral commission letters and tax office demands as junk mail. We may not have given our details personally and they also sent mail to thousands of other people!
      • I read the article, but couldn't decipher the picture with the Thai text.

        But I think I recognized "Pad Thai" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pad_thai) in there somewhere.

        So this message could be just "spam, Pad Thai and spam." There is not much spam in that. Of course, you could ask the waiter to replace the Pad Thai with spam, and the you would have "spam, spam and spam."

        Hmmm . . . Pad Thai . . . is it ok to eat that for breakfast?

        • by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 26, 2008 @04:28AM (#26233989) Homepage Journal
          I can't get every word, but here's a rough translation:

          I, the new Prime Minister, invite you to help Thailand come out of its current {illegible, probably crisis). If you're interested in receiving (illegible, probably information) from me,please send your 5-digit postal code to this number .... (the rest is cut off)

          It doesn't seem very spammy. The tone was appropriate, neither common nor overly polite. The Thai language paper I looked through didn't even mention the message. I look at it as just a better version of the required political speech on your first day.

          p.s. I know that you were joking about reading (it does have "Thai," though), but I though you might be interested in the content.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Dahan ( 130247 )
            Googling for the first few words finds a transcript of the SMS here [ryt9.com]. Basically says, "I, the new Prime Minister, invite you to help bring Thailand out of its crisis. If you're interested in being contacted by me, please send your 5-digit postal code to 9191 (3 baht)."
    • Re:Not really spam (Score:5, Informative)

      by belmolis ( 702863 ) <billposer@nospam.alum.mit.edu> on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:30AM (#26233741) Homepage

      This wasn't an emergency communication. It was just a "hi from the new prime minister", and the responses would do no more than give him an idea of the geographic distribution of his support. It isn't even a good survey technique.

      Moreover, Thailand has good radio and television penetration. There is one TV for every two Thai people. He could easily have gone on TV and radio.

      • Re:Not really spam (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Admiral Ag ( 829695 ) on Friday December 26, 2008 @04:04AM (#26233935)

        He should have been honest and said: "Hi, I'm your new Prime Minister who was installed by the military and the middle classes, because the poor majority of our country finally got it into their stupid heads to get together and vote for a party that more or less represented their interests. This is not allowed. Democracy is not about having a government that gets the most votes, but about serving the interests of the middle class and wealthy."

        It's the same old sad story.

        This guy and his supporters deserve something more than a reply to a text message.

        • Re:Not really spam (Score:4, Informative)

          by Daengbo ( 523424 ) <daengboNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday December 26, 2008 @04:46AM (#26234029) Homepage Journal
          That's a nice theory about the new PM, but as far as I can tell, he's part of a coalition of minor parties and he spoke out over the army coup in 2006. He was actually supported by the King, not the military.

          Admittedly, the Suvanabhumi airport fiasco and the removal of Somchai, the democratically-elected PM was sad, but there's no way to know how corrupt those elections were. A vote sold for two beers when I lived there. The PPP (Somchai's party) was apparently dissolved for buying votes, though there's some evidence that it was business as usual.

          Thai Rak Thai (Thaksin's party) was also elected several times by gaming the Bangkok vs. upcountry political system and throwing so much pork at the outer provinces that everyone voted for him. Hey, who wouldn't vote for an extra month's salary in cash and interest-free loans?

          Since The recently-deposed PM was Thaksin's brother-in-law and one of the richest families in the country, and Thaksin was extraordinarily corrupt even by Thailand's standards, your propoganda makes me doubt you're a disinterested party in the manner.

          The King has been the only thing keeping Thai politics remotely sane since it went constitutional, and his death will let the dogs loose.
          • Indeed the GP should be modded "-1 head up ass". When the king dies expect a coup every couple of months.

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Daengbo ( 523424 )
              Jeez. How many Slashdotters are there in Thailand? You're number four, I think.
            • by Dahan ( 130247 )

              Indeed the GP should be modded "-1 head up ass". When the king dies expect a coup every couple of months.

              Heh, seeing that you said [slashdot.org] Samak Sundaravej was never voted into power, but was instead installed by the Army, and also said that Somchai Wongsawat was similarly never voted into power, you've got your head too far up your ass to be able to see where anyone else's head is.

          • All the parties game the system. It's how politics in Thailand works. The new guy is just as, if not more, corrupt than the old one. The whole thing is a joke. Thaksin's replacement was removed after being convicted of a conflict of interest (he was moonlighting as a chef on a television cooking show â" that's so pathetic that words fail me).

            The difference is that Thaksin's lot were voted in with a majority, and he'd more or less kept most of his campaign promises. Hell, he'd even completed a previous

            • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

              by Daengbo ( 523424 )
              Thaksin was the most corrupt man I've seen in Thailand. He "donated" land to a Buddhist temple to avoid taxes then built a luxury golf course on it, for god's sake, and that was before he ever got elected. There's a reason he was several times the richest man in Thailand. You don't get that way by being clean, and his level of wealth speaks directly against your "serving the rich" rant.

              Since the average vote costs a couple of beers, it doesn't take much to get "the will of the majority," especially if you
          • by Dahan ( 130247 )

            That's a nice theory about the new PM, but as far as I can tell, he's part of a coalition of minor parties and he spoke out over the army coup in 2006. He was actually supported by the King, not the military.

            While it's true that the Democrats are in coalition with minor parties, I would hardly call the Democrat party itself a "minor party"--they were the #2 party behind TRT/PPP before the latter's dissolution.

            Admittedly, the Suvanabhumi airport fiasco and the removal of Somchai, the democratically-elected PM was sad, but there's no way to know how corrupt those elections were. A vote sold for two beers when I lived there. The PPP (Somchai's party) was apparently dissolved for buying votes, though there's some evidence that it was business as usual.

            Well, election monitors from the EU [bangkokpost.com] said that the 2007 election that put the PPP and Samak Sundaravej in power went mostly smoothly [bbc.co.uk], despite complaints of vote-buying. Yes, it's unfortunate that vote-buying is commonplace in Thailand, but according to Transparency International [transparency.org], corruption in Thailand went

        • Khun Abhisit has become premier after extraordinary political manoeuvrings and a bidding war for MPs. For a fascinating look at how politics and "democracy" works in Thailand, take a look at this timeline by a Thai newspaper editor [nationmultimedia.com]. While some details are based on rumours, the cash incentives to MPs and refusal by any body to investigate are public knowledge.

          Thai politics has always been corrupt to a greater or lesser extent. However, the corruption reached a new level under the premiership of Khun Tha

      • Re:Not really spam (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Friday December 26, 2008 @06:22AM (#26234237)

        Moreover, Thailand has good radio and television penetration. There is one TV for every two Thai people. He could easily have gone on TV and radio.

        The thing is that there are two Mobile Phones for every one Thai person.

        If you've ever met a Thai you'll find that they are married to the phone. Mobile coverage is better then TV and Radio combined in Thailand.

        This wasn't an emergency communication. It was just a "hi from the new prime minister", and the responses would do no more than give him an idea of the geographic distribution of his support. It isn't even a good survey technique.

        This is just the information he would need to strengthen his power base and weaken his oppositions. If you think that American politicians are petty and corrupt, you've never learned about Thai politics, they take pork barrel spending to a whole new level. Abhisit is learning who he needs to appease to stay in power, his predecessor did the same thing.

  • Stop doing that. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tubal-Cain ( 1289912 ) * on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:26AM (#26233719) Journal

    Newly installed Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's first act was to send a spam SMS to tens of millions of Thai cell phone subscribers. The message... urged people to help him solve the Thai political crisis and respond with their postal code at a charge of 3 baht (10 US cents)

    Step one: don't make it so easy for a politician to send a text message to everyone in the country that has a cell phone. If they can do that, they can abuse it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:44AM (#26233767)

    The cost to send an SMS in Thailand is typically 3 baht. Pre-paid plans on the major carriers (True, DTAC, AIS) all charge about 3 baht per SMS.

    The SMS wasn't sent to all mobile phones either. I have 3 phones, and the only one to receive the SMS was the one without Thai fonts.

    The papers tried to make a big deal out of it over here, but I haven't met a single person who so much as mentioned it.

  • Instead, he should have sent it to all the tourists that visit the country. Oh, wait... they do not do it any more because of the airport chaos.
  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Friday December 26, 2008 @02:57AM (#26233803)

    If this gets too much press coverage, politicians in other countries might get the idea to start doing this!

    Thailand *is* in a crisis situation right now, and the PM could fudge his way out of this.

    But the US auto industry is also in a crisis. Would you like to receive some spam everyday from US Senator Carl Levin, asking you to support the bailout? (For the non-US folks, Carl Levin happens to be the Senator from Michigan, where most of the US auto industry is based).

    If the government in the country where I live gets the ability to spam everyone, as they please, first I will chuck my cell phone, and then I will move.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by parliboy ( 233658 )
      I am okay if Carl Levin sends a spam SMS to each of our personal cell phones every day. All I ask in return is that we be allowed to each send an SMS to his personal cell phone every day.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The message, signed 'Your PM,' urged people to help him solve the Thai political crisis, and asked if the recipient would like to receive more contacts from him, if so, respond with their postal code at a charge of 3 Baht (10 US cents).

  • by societyofrobots ( 1396043 ) on Friday December 26, 2008 @03:24AM (#26233847)

    If every politician and businessmen here sent a message to rally people for their cause, we'd end up with dozens of spam messages per day. Actually, I get ~2 spam messages/day from businesses in Thailand already (I live here).

    This is abuse of communication, not privacy.

    Oh and it was from 'yourPM', no spaces. I got it on my cell, here is the translation:

    "I am your new prime minister. I ask that everyone join hands for Thailand / if you are interested in talking with me please send me a postcard to your main postoffice at #9191 (3 baht)"

    My thai friends thought the SMS was a prank . . . The majority population feels he became PM through very immoral means, so I can see this SMS message making a lot of people not happy over here . . .

    • by Daengbo ( 523424 )
      From the picture in the article (I don't live there anymore so I didn't get the message), it's more like:

      I, the new Prime Minister, invite you (hon.) to join together to bring Thailand out of (something illegible). If you are interested in being contacted by me again, please send your 5-digit postal code ("rahat praisanee") to the number ... (cut off in the picture).

      Personal interest -- where did you learn Thai? How long have you lived there? Are you in IT?

      • I like your translation better . . .

        > Personal interest -- where did you learn Thai? How long have you lived there? Are you in IT?

        Taught it to myself over 4+ years, lived here no more than 4-5 months, and I'm an engineer that runs a fairly popular website (which is why I visit /.). I'm guessing by your better translation you must be Thai? =P

        • by Daengbo ( 523424 )
          Not Thai, no. I was a Thai linguist then lived there for four years. I've been in Korea for almost five years now.

          I was there when FOSS was in full swing. How's it holding up now? I don't hear much from the LinuxTLE or OfficeTLE teams at NECTEC these days.

          My gal's brother is pissed about the new PM, too. He lives in Bangkok but doesn't like the politics there (being a northerner at heart). Every time she talks to him, they spend more time on politics these days than anything else.

          Thais didn't seem so
          • Yea, I find a lot of Thais would rather pretend politics didn't even exist here . . . but the extremists have definitely created some polarization . . . as for political change, I could use a bit less corporate protectionism and bit more Visa time between runs =P

            I'm not involved with the programming/OS/IT community here, although they contacted me to join them. I tend to the robotics community here.

            My site is the same as my username, http://www.societyofrobots.com/ [societyofrobots.com]
            Probably not interesting for you unless you

      • Here is the actual text so someone else can do a better translation job . . . make sure your encoding is set to Thai!

        àoeàà(TM)àààà£à±ààà(TM)àà£ààà(TM)àfàààààààSààà--ààà(TM)à£àààà(TM)ààà£ààà--ààà--ààààààààààà

    • he majority population feels he became PM through very immoral means, so I can see this SMS message making a lot of people not happy over here.

      Maybe your country wife isn't happy because Thaksin isn't giving her bribes anymore but the rest of us honest people who don't do illegal things are quite happy thank you.

      • Don't you have more important things to do like an airport to 'legally' shut down and Newin to bribe with ministerial posts? ;)

        Whatever the PAD says, true or not, the reality is that the current gov't lost every election but they are the ones in power.

  • by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday December 26, 2008 @04:54AM (#26234055) Homepage

    GOOD DAY TO YOU SIRS OR MADAM

    I AM [PRIME MINISTER OF KINGDOM OF THAILAND]. I HAVE BUSINESS PROPOSITION TO MAKE YOU. Have URGENT POLITICAL CRISIS to get out of the country; need you to send 10c ([TEN CENTS]) to me and it's yours.
    Is NOT pyramid scheme

    Signed,
    [Thai prime minister]

  • and here's one more example.

  • Our current president [wikipedia.org] has already done this before 2002 election with a pre-recorded message and dialer calling to all private phones in the country and the message even got a house remix KlausHaus [kompost.cz]. His party has subsequently lost the election, wonder why...

    Oh, the innocent times, within several years, the boom of telemarketing has immunized the populace to the extent this wouldn't raise too many eyebrows today.

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