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MK Restaurants and Yayoi have become the target of a boycott on suspicion that they are sponsoring Top News, a newly founded right-wing media outlet. Some tried to defend them by posting photos claiming to be eating their dishes, but netizens have revealed that the photos were taken from other people's social media profiles. 

A right-wing activist also posted a photo of Grab Food riders waiting in a long line to take orders, but MK Restaurants said that the photo was from one of their promotion campaigns some time ago.

On 22 March, Sathaporn Kuasakul, a Top News correspondent, posted on Facebook a photo of rice with roasted duck with the caption “Thank you MK for taking a good care of Top News. Overwhelming happiness every day at MK."

Reporters of Top News have long been criticized for their biased coverage of the recent pro-democracy protests and for encouraging authoritarian attitudes. As MK Restaurants’ involvement in Top News became visible, calls for a boycott went viral on social media.

Amarat Chokepamitkul, an MP of the Move Forward party, said that MK Restaurants and Yayoi had been her favourite places to go. But she can no longer enjoy their food as long as they sponsor Top News.

"Stop eating at MK and Yayoi, even though they are your favorite restaurants, until they stop sponsoring the Top News channel," said Amarat. "If it is a misunderstanding, I ask MK to quickly explain the facts," she said. 

Meanwhile, the hashtag "Ban MK and Yayoi" spiked on Twitter. Facebook also saw users sharing information about alternatives to MK and Yayoi.

In response, Sathaporn posted "Ban everything. Be warned that you will have nothing to eat." He also added a degrading question about if she has "something special" which she has to "eat in secret".

Others came out to defend MK Restaurants. Kiat Kitcharoen, a Thai celebrity, shared an article about the history of MK Restaurants and said "Who doesn’t eat; I eat MK."

Khetrat and Chutathut Laothamatas, sibling MPs in the government's Phalang Pracharat party, also wrote Facebook posts to convince people to eat at MK Restaurants.

Caption: Chutathut Laothamatas posted a photo of herself eating at MK Restaurant. Source: Khaosod Online

While the discussion was going on, some resorted to a bizarre method: fake eating at MK by stealing others' photos. 

Some Twitter accounts posted photos of MK's roasted duck and said that thanks to the attention caused by the boycott, they ordered MK's tasty dishes to give them the support they deserve.

However, Twitter users have scrutinized their claims. It was found that one of the photos was taken from other people's social media. One Twitter user said that she was the one who took one of the photos when she ate at an MK restaurant.

Caption: A photo from MK's supporter can be found on other people's social media. Source: Khaosod Online

To minimize the damage, a right-wing supporter on Twitter adjusted their tone by posting a photo of MK's roasted duck and said "Whether the photo is old or new is not important, but today I ate the duck."

Songklot Chuenchoopol, a right-wing political activist and former soldier, also posted on Twitter a photo of Grab riders waiting in a long line for MK orders. He said "I would like to beautifully prostrate myself to ask you to boycott my shop, so that I can get along financially."

However, it turned out that the photo was taken from a column on Matichon Online available since 28 March 2020. At the time, there was a buy-one-get-one-free promotion, so the orders were overwhelming. MK Restaurants also confirmed that to be the case.

Caption: A photo posted by Songklot is also found on Matichon Online. Source: Khaosod Online

And because the waiting line was crowded and showed a lack of social distancing, which caused a controversy at the time, MK also reiterated their explanation that since then they have taken measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

So far, there has been no answer from MK Restaurants on whether they sponsor Top News.

Some Twitter users have pointed out that posting distorted information online is punishable under the Computer Crime Act. However, the law has never been used to prosecute right-wing figures.

Apart from MK restaurant, No Salim Shopping List's Twitter account also posted a list of other companies which they believe have been sponsoring Top News including S&P, Sappe, Miyazaki, etc.

Fake eating pattern

Some Twitter users had previously tried to use the same tactic to defend Potato Corner Thailand.

On 6 March, Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, a political activist, was arrested at Major Ratchayothin together with 20 members of We Volunteer, a peacekeeping group founded to ensure the safety of pro-democracy protesters.

Seeing an opportunity to promote their fried potatoes, Potato Corner Thailand posted on Facebook right after the arrest that Toto was arrested for eating their fried potatoes unstoppably at their branch in Central World. The hashtag “Ban Potato Corner” soared on Twitter immediately as netizens condemned the company for exploiting the arrest of the activist.

Pachara Chirathivat, a Thai celebrity who had already been criticized for his pro-government stance and political apathy on other occasions, happens to be the owner of Potato Corner Thailand. On this occasion, he apologized for the mistake.

Potato Corner’s Facebook page claimed that their mascot’s name was Toto too, and the post was scheduled long before the arrest of Piyarat.

At the same time, some Twitter users posted a photo claiming to be eating fried potatoes in support of Potato Corner, but after scrutiny by concerned netizens, the photo was also later found to be available on Google.  

Top News now fully operational

Top News is a right-wing outlet which started broadcasting on satellite TV and social media platforms in January 2021. The outlet includes right-wing media figures such as Kanok Ratwongsakul, Anchalee Paireerak, Sathaporn Kuasakul, Santisuk Marongsri, Ubonrat Thaonoi and Worathep Suwattanaphim.

These correspondents began working for Top News after resigning from Nation TV last year. Because of their biased coverage of the pro-democracy protests in 2019-2020 on Nation TV, pro-democracy activists launched campaigns to boycott products and services of Nation TV's sponsors.

The boycott caused some of the sponsors to withdraw support, including the Bangkok Mass Transit Systemm, which sold 406,390,000 shares, amounting to 9.9 percent of the total shares of the Nation Multimedia Group.

The decline in Nation TV's revenue and internal pressure led to the resignation of its right-wing correspondents as well as Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham, an executive of Nation TV at the time.

Sonthiyan was a right-wing activist and the founder of T-NEWS, a right-wing outlet whose reports supported the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010. A few years later, he was one of the leading figures in the protests of the People's Democratic Reform Committee which led to the military coup in 2014. 

In 2017, Sonthiyan was invited by Chai Bunnag to help Nation TV out of a debt crisis. Under his co-management with Chai, the revenue of Nation TV did go up in the first quarter of 2020.

However, Nation TV faced challenges from growing boycotts as the pro-democracy movement started gaining momentum. This development forced Sonthiyan to resign in June 2020. Not long after, Chai announced that Nation TV would return to "the Nation Way", promising to adhere to professional ethics and impartiality.

After Sonthiyan left Nation TV, he made unsuccessful attempts to buy NEW18 and PPTV. Then he founded Top News in January 2021. The outlet is now fully operational as the authorities have stepped up their actions against pro-democracy protesters.

with courtesy from Khaosod Online
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