KOMSAN TORTERMVASANA & SRISAMORN PHOOSUPHANUSORN
Mobile phone operators admitted yesterday the Council for National Security (CNS) had asked them to send out SMS messages discouraging subscribers from attending protests.
The spammed messages ask recipients to continue to perform their duty and to use their judgement before agreeing to join in the activities of anti-government groups.
The CNS fears trouble following the Constitution Tribunal's dissolution of Thai Rak Thai last Wednesday.
The first of the unsolicited messages were received by subscribers on the weekend and they were still being sent out yesterday.
Supporters of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra rallied at Sanam Luang on Saturday and Sunday, when Nattawut Saikuar announced plans to hold daily demonstrations ''until at least June 24''.
Police said about 1,500 people gathered at Sanam Luang yesterday.
Advanced Info Service (AIS) president Wichien Mektrakarn said CNS and army chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin sought cooperation last week.
He said AIS planned to send SMS messages to all its 22 million mobile phone subscribers within three or four days. The company, which is owned by Shin Corporation, saw this as being worthwhile cooperation.
It has the capability to send out two to three million SMS messages per second.''If the government seeks our cooperation again we are willing to SMS mobile phone subscribers as this may help prevent chaos,'' the AIS president said.
It was hard to estimate the cost of sending messages to so many phones.
True Move vice chairman Athueck Asvanont also admitted the junta had asked the company to send the short message to all its mobile subscribers.
The company felt the messages would benefit the public and therefore agreed, just as it had done when the tsunami struck the South in 2004.
But it was at short notice and the SMS might not reach all customers.