Jack "dekfarang" Brown is having a tantrum

A British social media influencer based in Bangkok is suing a young Thai woman over critical comments she made about him on Facebook.

A 35-year-old British social media influencer based in Bangkok, notorious for his online rants, has launched legal action against a 25-year-old Thai woman he accuses of bullying him because she criticised his hypocrisy in a post on Facebook.

Jack Brown, who calls himself “dekfarang”, a cute term of affection for a young Western man in Thailand, first arrived in the country as a backpacker in 2006, and quickly found himself in trouble when he and his friend Chris Goward claimed they were attacked by Thai gangsters with guns and knives in Krabi.

According to the story they told police, they agreed to get on the back of some Thai men’s motorbikes to go to a party, and when they changed their minds, they were violently assaulted.

Brown always tries extremely hard to get people to like him — it’s the basis for his whole career — so perhaps his newfound Thai friends thought he was a great guy and were so disappointed when he pulled out of going to a party with them that they ran amok with firearms and machetes. But there are other more plausible explanations for what actually happened that night.

Brown was not deterred by this unfortunate experience. He decided to base himself in Thailand, and became fluent in Thai, with a superb command of the language and especially how it is used by younger people. He perfected a persona that made him beloved by young Thai women, an intoxicating combination of a kind older brother and a potential boyfriend, a foreign guy able to talk to Thai girls in a way that they understood.

His timing was ideal because he established himself as one of Thailand’s favourite farang just as social media was taking off, so he became one of the first foreign influencers in the kingdom.

Brown marketed himself as a “farang with a Thai heart” and sought to boost his profile with performative reverence for King Bhumibol.

From 2014 onwards he began posting adulatory comments about the king, saying he had despaired of finding a truly good role model in the modern world until he learned about Bhumibol, who he claimed had worked tirelessly all his life to improve the nation. Brown said he was inspired by the notorious propaganda book King Bhumibol Adulyadej: A Life’s Work and loved Thailand’s monarch. Thai royalists lapped up his comments.

Brown also began attacking people he regarded as enemies of the monarchy, in particular Chatwadee “Rose” Amornpat, a Thai woman living in London who had posted several videos on social media condemning the king. There were concerns about Chatwadee’s mental health, but for Thai royalists she became public enemy number one, and Brown joined in the witch hunt by posting a video on social media in which he used his excellent command of Thai slang to denounce and dehumanise her.

He also attacked me on social media in 2014, because I was about to publish a book telling the truth about the Thai monarchy. This was how I found out who he was — I’d never heard of him before. After he faced a significant backlash for his expletive-ridden rant about me, he deleted it and blocked me, and I forgot about him, until now.

Meanwhile, he continued to promote himself as a foreigner who loved the Thai monarchy, claiming Bhumibol had showed him how to be “completely selfless” and work tirelessly to help others without caring about himself.

When Bhumibol was on the brink of death in 2016, Brown acted distraught, and pumped out more royalist propaganda on his social media pages.

Thanks to his fluency in Thai and his ostentatious royalism, Brown built up a large social media presence in Thailand. He has more than 1.2 million followers on Facebook, plus 124,000 on Instagram, and 370,000 on “Team Chester”, a Facebook page he uses to promote his supposedly perfect life with a gorgeous Thai girlfriend, a cute pet dog and meerkat, and endless adventures and luxury holidays.

For several years, he struggled to monetise his social media following. Back in 2014 he tried to set up a charity, the “Dekfarang Foundation”, with the excruciating slogan “Help us help them”. The plan was that Jack would raise donations from his followers and then give some of what he received to Thai causes he deemed worthy of help, despite having no professional expertise or knowledge of how the money could be best spent to benefit Thailand’s people.

But the charity never got off the ground, and he realised it was more lucrative to generate income by promoting brands for money on social media. He routinely fails to admit that many of his posts on Instagram and Facebook are advertisements that he has been paid to publish.

In an article on foreign influencers in 2016, Coconuts noted that Brown was not honest about his role as a paid advertiser:

Brown is famous for his Thai-language rants. The British bloke goes off on everything from Phuket transport to plastic surgery, bad farang boyfriends, Thai habits and beautiful hotels. Sometimes, the rants appear sponsored. To Thais, Brown is like their go-to foreigner. When they want to know what foreigners think about anything in Thailand, they go to Jack Dek Farang and ask him, and he’s at the top of his game.

Like most social media influencers, Brown tries to create a fake image of a perfect life, and gets brands to pay him for advertising, without ever admitting that this is what he is doing.

Brown consistently leveraged his outspoken royalism to get Thai companies to hire him in their advertising campaigns. His constant praise of the royals helped him establish himself as one of the far-right’s favourite foreigners in Thailand.

But sometimes his rants went too far and annoyed the authorities. In 2016 he had to make a public apology after claiming he had been ripped off by a tuktuk driver in Phuket.

Even after Bhumibol’s death, when everything began to change during the reign of King Vajiralongkorn, Brown continued to double down on his performative royalism.

As late as August 2019, he was still posing for social media photographs underneath the portrait of King Bhumibol he’d hung on his wall, giving a Mother’s Day gift to his girlfriend’s mom.

During 2020, the Facebook group Royalist Marketplace, created by exiled dissident Pavin Chachavalpongpun, became immensely popular in Thailand as a place where young people could openly discuss and criticise the monarchy. The efforts of the regime to get Facebook to shut down the group only made it even more famous.

On October 22 last year, a young Thai woman wrote a post in Royalist Marketplace in which she noted that foreigners like Brown who had previously promoted the monarchy were silent about Vajiralongkorn and the democracy movement in Thailand. She also made the point that while Brown was a social media star in Thailand, he’d be considered very unremarkable in his own country.

In early January, she received notification that she was being sued for defamation by Jack Brown. The woman, who asked me to refer to her by nickname Fifi, says the legal case has caused huge distress to her family, and she has had to start taking anti-anxiety medication.

Defamation is a criminal offence in Thailand, rather than a civil matter as it is in most developed countries, so Fifi could potentially be jailed, and face a large fine, just for stating a reasonable opinion about Brown.

But according to Brown, a white man living a very privileged lifestyle in Thailand, he is the real victim.

In a Facebook post with his lawyer on May 25 at the Bangkok Criminal Court on Ratchadapisek Road, which he has pinned to the top of his page, he said he had been so hurt by Fifi’s comment that he had to temporarily stop his “work” as an influencer and became a recluse in the luxury home he boasts about relentlessly on social media. He claimed he was suing Fifi to make a stand against bullying.

I contacted Brown to ask for his side of the story, and he spent a few hours writing a statement, which he eventually sent to me. He claims that he has not made comments about Thai politics for many years, even though he posted numerous royalist images as late as 2019 when it was already clear the monarchy was a disaster:

The topic of the post in which I was attacked is in relation to things many years ago, and has no relation to any recent expression of opinions or beliefs. As you can see from my social media activity, I have not expressed any opinions for many years.

Brown said the criticism from Fifi had caused him terrible anguish:

Please seek to understand that cyber-bullying and witch hunting online cannot be disguised as freedom of speech. Freedom of speech gives no right to bully, intimidate or incite hatred against someone.

I asked him what was defamatory in Fifi’s comments, and whether he now wanted to apologise for his aggressive online bullying of Rose, but he failed to reply.

Fifi is frightened about Brown’s efforts to use the criminal defamation law against her and is struggling with anxiety. Her family are also very concerned. But she is refusing to delete her comment because she believes she has done nothing wrong and has the right to share her opinions.

When I talked to her today, she told me: “I asked questions so what’s the answer? Was he pretending to be a royalist? If he wants to claim his love for the royals is real and true, I just want to see him praise Vajiralongkorn every day like a good royalist would do.”