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Imagining Thailand's Twitter Experiment

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Thailand is known as the 'Land of Smiles', but things can get pretty dirty if you step on the wrong toes.

Sonja Abrahamsson captivated the world with her barmy musings on day-to-day life in Sweden.

When the Swedish government started handing over the reins of the @Sweden Twitter account to regular Swedes as part of a public relations blitz, nobody could have predicted we'd meet such a bonkers yet ultimately fascinating character as Sonja. This got me thinking: How would this project play out in other countries? How about Thailand?

Thailand's government is keen on the idea of re-branding the country. After all, they've just hired uber-hipster Tyler Brule to do precisely that. Perhaps best known for founding Monocle magazine, Brule is a curious choice for the role. So what if Thailand were to get its own string of Sonja Abrahamssons to give the world an insight into what makes Thais tick? The idea has potential, but we should lay a few ground rules.

The chosen candidates will be given complete control of Thailand's Twitter account, able to post whatever they like. But we'd better not let things get too raunchy. Remember when student Chotiros Suriyawong showed up at an awards show in an extremely revealing black dress? She had to publicly apologise for that and was forced to read books to blind children as punishment.

Special care will also have to be given to make sure any opinions expressed have taken everyone else's opinions well into consideration. We wouldn't want a repeat of 2010 when CNN correspondent Dan Rivers was all but run out of the country after his reports on the political crisis were deemed biased by some circles. An open letter to CNN went viral and keyboard warriors quickly congregated in online spaces to have a pop at the journalist.

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To avoid controversy of any kind, the Twitter feed will need to be staunchly anti-American so as not to incur the wrath of Thailand's royalists, who last year brought the US Embassy's Facebook page to its knees in response to foreign criticism of Thailand's lese majeste laws, which can land you up to 15 years in prison for insulting the monarchy.

In fact, to avoid any kind of misunderstanding, the Twitter feed will definitely have to be pro-monarchy. Twenty-year-old Natthakarn "Kan Thoob" Sakuldarachat has been subjected to a vicious online hate campaign over the past few years for posting Facebook status updates deemed offensive to the royal institution.

We certainly wouldn't want any of that. But we'll also have to be careful about who we engage with and all re-tweets will need to be screened or else we might end up like Thai webmaster Chiranuch Premchaiporn, who nearly went to jail for several comments posted by other people on the Prachatai news website.

Politics should probably be avoided altogether or else we'll have masses of red and yellow shirt clad supporters at our door calling for a reform of our social media tactics. Similarly, we'll have to be cautious about posting food pictures. The late Samak Sundaravej was forced to step down as prime minister in 2008 because he broke a law by hosting cooking shows while in office. We can't have a conflict of interest like that.

References to fake designer goods ought to be kept to a minimum, a point that Lady Gaga should have kept in mind when she arrived in Bangkok for a concert last month and tweeted, "I just landed in Bangkok baby! Ready for 50,000 screaming Thai monsters. I wanna get lost in a lady market and buy fake Rolex." That caused an uproar on social media with many Thais demanding an apology for the devilish remarks. The government also filed a police complaint over Gaga's "offensive" use of the national flag during her performance.

With these select few ground rules in mind, Thailand's Twitter experiment would be destined for success. Who's going to be first sign up? Anyone? Anyone?

Around the Web

BBC News - Thailand country profile - Overview