A social media war has erupted between Thai citizens and Chinese nationalists leading to more than 1.44 million posts and 4.64 billion views on Chinese platform Weibo.
It all started with a Thai model’s comments regarding the coronavirus starting in a Wuhan laboratory. Weeraya Sukaram, also know as “Nnevvy”, instantly angered a large number of Chinese nationalists and started a huge back and forth between them and pro-democracy campaigners.
Thais joined forces with citizens in Hong Kong and Taiwan and within hours the hashtag #Nnevvy was trending on Twitter with more than two million tweets.
The online row has been called “unique in volume and regional spread” by political analysts and activists, partly due to people being forced online due to lockdowns and curfews.
Prajak Kongkirati of Bangkok’s Thammasat University said:
“This is the first transnational geopolitical Twitter war Thais have engaged in. We see people questioning China’s actions and influence…the celebrity issue is the tip of the iceberg.”
Chinese nationalists responded to the original tweet about covid-19 being created in a lab by pulling up an old Instagram post by Nnevvy suggesting that Taiwan is not part of China.
They then accused her boyfriend of liking a post that identified Hong Kong as a country. Beijing is quite touchy about these subjects, maintaining both regions belong to China.
However, as Thais and citizens of both Hong Kong and Taiwan joined in the social media war, there was support from numerous celebrities and politicians including a Taiwanese mayor.
Hong Kong pro-democracy campaigner, Joshua Wong urged the population to “stand with our freedom-loving Thai friends.”
There is a growing unease across Thailand that China is beginning to exert more influence over the nation ever since the 2014 coup that led and that they have Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, on their side.
The spat has highlighted the diplomatic issues across the Southeast and East Asian regions with some users from the Philippines taking the opportunity to attack Chinese action in the South China Sea.
The online spat comes shortly after the Chinese Embassy in Chiang Mai accused the Bangkok Post of political bias for an editorial criticizing the WHO and China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Of the millions of tweets written during the online war, one, in particular, went viral. It read “Thailand is poor, but China is Pooh,” a reference to the likening of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh that is banned in China.
Source: Al Jazeera