The Nation: Media ban may turn junta’s friends into foes

January 14, 2007

from The Nation, Thailand’s local English-language newspaper:

Media ban may turn junta’s friends into foesMove to block former PM’s comments is an unwelcome return to dark days of censorship

The Council for National Security (CNS) made a critical move on Wednesday when it ordered the broadcast media to cease airing views defending former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Thai Rak
Thai Party.

The junta leaders broke an important rule that brought Thaksin to his downfall. And it is turning friends into foes.

The junta leaders have proved that they don’t believe their allies, who warned at the very beginning of their rule that they could do anything – just don’t behave like Thaksin did.

“You guys should know that if we allow representatives of the former premier to make statements every day, the public will be confused. Executives of state-owned media should withdraw the programmes [that violate the order].

“Why continue to defend people who caused damage to the country?” said CNS secretary-general General Winai Phattiyakul, who summoned about 50 editors and media executives on Wednesday.

The CNS order is nothing more than a betrayal to the media, its major ally that hailed the top-brass generals as national heroes when they sent their tanks into the streets of Bangkok and other cities on the night of September 19, putting an end to the Thaksin era.

Amid concerns the coup leaders would become just another group of typical dictators who had robbed Thailand’s democracy – and set to impose absolute control on the media – General Sonthi Boonyaratglin guaranteed the media would be granted freedom of speech, which the people had rarely enjoyed during the Thaksin reign.

Some editors were even willing to call the coup as the “road to democracy by democratic soldiers”.

About three months later, it’s a different story.

Thaksin gave these kind of assurances to the media when he assumed power in early 2001. At the time, the media backed his government, as they believed he would help bring prosperity to the whole nation, as he had promised.

After three years, however, Thaksin turned against the media after repeated revelations of graft scandals and conflicts of interest, allegedly involving his family members and influential figures in his government.

Instead of clarifying the doubts and allegations, Thaksin blamed the media for being unfair and treating his government with bias.

Thaksin fell to his demise after news reports questioned his government’s self-proclaimed success and transparency. So, perhaps the junta generals should take a lesson that the facts normally speak for themselves.

If Thaksin truly is a devil, let him defend himself or write his evil statements. Whatever his claims are, the devil can’t be anything else.

The CNS claimed that Thaksin’s comments should not be aired through the broadcasting media – a rule that may also apply to the print media soon – may raise doubts if he is the devil, as accused.

A good ruler doesn’t look down on his people. They are as wise to keep you in power as to bring you to your knees.

Let them see two sides of a coin. The media reports, the people decide. It’s a major principle of democracy that the generals have also told the nation.

If the junta leaders really want to restore peace and return administrative power to the people, they have no reason to be scared of Thaksin or his clout. The public will support them to bring life back to normal.

If, however, they only intend to cling to power by manipulating the Thaksin issue to tighten their grip on the media, then Wednesday’s “intimidation” will inevitably lead to a “climate of fear”, which could be worse than the Thaksin era.

Thaksin has only attempted to sway the direction of news reports through his political clout. But the junta has sent its ultimatum to media that sees its officers holding guns in the background.

Running politics is about managing public perception. If the people lose faith in the ruler, they will no longer believe him, no matter what the claim is.

Whether or not the junta means to intimidate by its order, it is a bad sign on the road to restoring democracy. Their allies will become suspicious as to whether they have backed the right side.

Weerayut Chokchaimadon

The Nation

source: Media ban may turn junta’s friends into foes, The Nation, Jan 12, 2007

5 Responses to “The Nation: Media ban may turn junta’s friends into foes”

  1. Leonard Haid Says:

    Two days ago YouTube was banned in Thailand. Censorship is alive and well here.

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