|January 19, 2007 11:50 AM|
By D.Arul Rajoo
BANGKOK, Jan 19 (Bernama) — The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of
Thailand (FCCT) said the recent blackout of deposed Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatra’s interview with Cable News Network (CNN) channel is
against free press and has put the Thai authorities in a poor light.
In a letter to Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, FCCT president
Ian Williams said the censorship was unnecessary and improper
interference with the free and open press promised by the premier
during his address to FCCT members after taking power in October, 2006.
“When you addressed the FCCT last November, you made much of the
importance of an open and responsible press. We hope that you will take
steps to uphold this position, and also do everything in your power to
promote a balanced debate in all the media about Thailand and its
present situation,” Williams said.
On Monday, cable operator UBC blocked broadcast on its CNN channel
of a brief excerpt from an interview with Thaksin which had been
recorded earlier in Singapore.
Army Chief and Council for National Security (CNS) chairman
General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, who staged the coup that ousted Thaksin
in September last year, had denied that the CNS had censored the
broadcast, indicating the action was UBC’s alone.
Williams said that the interview, which could hardly be termed
inflammatory, has already been reproduced in a number of publications
and on several websites, as well as having been made available on You
“Its interest value has now been significantly enhanced simply by virtue of having been blocked,” he added.
Williams said FCCT very much hoped that the incident was the work
of an overzealous employee somewhere, and not pursuant to a deliberate
He, however, said there has been concern for some time that all
mentions of Thaksin are being cut from relayed foreign broadcasts and a
growing number of websites also appear to have been blocked for the
FCCT said the full 30 minute interview was scheduled to be aired
this weekend but no assurances have been given that it would be seen in
The interview, as well as Thaksin’s visit to Singapore and meeting
with Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar has stirred a diplomatic row
between the two countries, with Thailand retracting an invitation to
Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo to visit here.
อ้างอิงจากสำนักข่าวเบอร์นามาของมาเลเซีย สมาคมผู้สื่อข่าวต่างประเทศแห่งประเทศไทย (FCCT) ได้เขียนจดหมายถึง พล.อ.สุรยุทธ์ จุลานนท์ โดยกล่าวประท้วงว่า การเซ็นเซอร์สื่อเป็นสิ่งที่ไม่จำเป็นและเป็นการคุกคามต่อสิทธิเสรีภาพของสื่อ ทั้งๆ ที่ได้พล.อ.สุรยุทธ์ ได้เคยสัญญาไว้เมื่อครั้งเยือนสำนักงาน FCCT เมื่อเดือนพฤศจิกายนที่ผ่านมา
“เมื่อคุณมากล่าวต่อ FCCT เมื่อเดือนพฤศจิกายนที่แล้ว คุณบอกว่าคุณจะให้ความสำคัญต่อจรรยาบรรณและเสรีภาพของสื่อ (an open and responsible press) เราหวังว่าคุณทำอะไรบางอย่างเพื่อที่จะรักษาจุดยืนดังกล่าวนั้นไว้ รวมถึงหวังว่าคุณจะทำทุกอย่างภายใต้อำนาจของคุณที่จะส่งเสริม ความสมดุลย์ของขั้วความคิดต่างๆ ในสื่อ ที่เกี่ยวกับเมืองไทยและสถานการณ์ในปัจจุบัน” มร. เอียน วิลเลียม ประธาน FCCT กล่าว
จดหมายฉบับดังกล่าวอ้างถึงเหตุการณ์ที่เกิดขึ้นกับการที่สถานีเคเบิลทีวีได้ทำการเซ็นเซอร์ข่าวของซีเอ็นเอ็น เมื่อวันจันทร์ที่ผ่านมา โดย มร.วิลเลียมได้กล่าวว่า การให้สัมภาษณ์ดังกล่าวไม่ได้มีเนื้อหาใดๆ ที่ก่อให้เกิดความแตกแยกหรือหมิ่นประมาทใดๆ การเซ็นเซอร์ดังกล่าวยิ่งทำให้การสัมภาษณ์ครั้งนั้น กลับยิ่งเผยแพร่หนักกว่าเดิม ไม่ว่าจะทางสื่อสิ่งพิมพ์ หรืออินเตอร์เน็ต
False dawn to a new beginning
The clock is rolling back in Thailand,writes Peter Kammerer
South China Morning Post
Friday, January 19, 2007
By Peter Kammerer
When Thailand’s democratically elected government was overthrown and the constitution discarded by a military junta four months ago, Thais were promised a new beginning. The pledge has proved to be a lie; instead, the country is being thrown back to the 1980s — minus the spectacular economic growth of that period.
This was not apparent to Thais in the wake of the coup in September 19. The government of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra had been gradually losing popularity through curbs on freedom and human-rights abuses.
But the change that was so glowingly foreshadowed by coup leaders has not materialised. In Mr Thaksin’s place is a reincarnation of the repressive regime of General Prem Tinsulanonda, prime minister from 1980 to 1988.
There is good reason why the clock is being wound back. General Prem, 86, is the chief adviser of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and played a key role in the coup and appointment of the interim government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. To his mind, if the good times are again to roll in Thailand, what better way to bring them on than to recast them as when he was at the helm?
For those purely using economics as a measure of success, the times were certainly good. Thailand was one of Southeast Asia’s “tiger economies” with annual gross domestic product peaking in 1988 at 13.2 per cent, thanks to strong foreign investment. By comparison, GDP growth last year was 4.5 per cent, among the weakest in the region.
There is more to a nation than financial data, though, and under General Prem’s autocratic rule, Thailand had civilian administrators and the façade of a democratic system. Thais did not have freedom of speech, a free media or the right to choose their leaders by election. Human rights were grossly abused and adherence to the rule of law was, at best, haphazardly applied. Corruption was rife.
The new military regime justified its coup by claiming it was going to right the wrongs committed by Mr Thaksin’s government. Just as quickly, it put in place the same style of administration that during the 1980s had permitted violations far worse than those of which Mr Thaksin now stands accused.
Mr Thaksin was widely criticised for impinging on press freedom, but the junta has imposed even tighter restrictions. There was a warning of what was to come on the night of the coup, when the BBC and CNN were blocked. On Monday night, as Mr Thaksin broke his media silence with an interview in Singapore with CNN, channels in Thailand receiving the feed showed a red screen with revolving pictures of movie and music stars and the words “Programming will resume shortly”. The Council for National Security, as the junta has styled itself, denied the intervention — although last Thursday it advised radio and television stations not to broadcast statements by the former leader.
For Hong Kong-based human rights advocate Nick Cheesman, Thais lost their rights and freedoms when the junta scrapped the 1997 constitution, won after a decade of struggle.
“The constitution and the process that came with it was a dramatic attempt to introduce the notion that the public had the right to participate in the affairs of the society and make decisions for themselves,” Mr Cheesman, of the Asian Human Rights Commission, said. “In terms of human rights, the environment and social movements — not just on paper, but in practice — this made an enormous difference.”
Dissatisfaction with the junta is growing, as happened under General Prem. An effort to stem a rise in the value of the baht, through capital controls, has rocked the stock market, and the toughening of foreign investment laws is scaring off cash inflows. Unexplained bomb attacks in Bangkok on New Year’s Eve that left three people dead have worried tourists.
Political upheaval forced General Prem from office and the protests continued until civilian rule was permitted in 1992. In the face of bungling and a lack of understanding that Thais want their democracy back, the process is being repeated.
Peter Kammerer is the Post‘s foreign editor
Ousted Thai PM Thaksin visits Japan
Posted: 19 January 2007 1126 hrs
TOKYO : Ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra has arrived in Japan to meet with business leaders and to give a public speech, media reported Friday.
Thaksin arrived at Narita airport late on Thursday on a private jet from Beijing, but played down the trip, telling reporters there was no pressing reason for his visit.
The trip comes after Thailand’s army-backed government sparked a diplomatic row this week with Singapore, issuing a strong rebuke to the city-state for allowing Thaksin to meet a top government official there.
The government has also withdrawn Thaksin’s diplomatic passport, although it denied on Thursday it was trying to crackdown on his movements.
Thaksin was in New York when the military toppled his government in December and has remained in exile since, hopping between Europe and Asia.
The Thai government last week ordered television and radio stations not to broadcast statements from Thaksin, signifying their jitters over the ousted leader.
He is expected to stay in Japan until next Thursday, Jiji Press said.
Thaksin is likely to give lectures and meet with Japanese business people, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said. – AFP /dt
Thaksin’s moving shadow rattles Thais
SINGAPORE: First came a report that Thailand had decided to cancel the military training facilities that it contracts out to Singapore.
This was followed by the rumour that deposed Premier Thaksin Shinawatra was planning to buy a TV station in the Republic to continue his tirade against Thailand’s current administration.
Both reports were wrong and denied immediately. But confusion reigned in Bangkok, a city already hit by recent bomb blasts and economic flip-flops.
A bunch of five people staged a protest outside the Singapore embassy, latching onto Mr Thak-sin’s recent visit here.
The former Thai Prime Minister himself remains out of reach – using the occasional media interview overseas to snipe back at his detractors.
The Thai administration is worried that his message, filtering back to his supporters, could provoke trouble. It has deployed heavy artillery to drown out Mr Thaksin’s voice, but its weapons are outdated.
It has revoked his diplomatic passport, but Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont admitted on Thursday that there was nothing to stop Mr Thaksin from travelling on his own passport. “It is his right to travel from place to place, as he wishes,” he told reporters.
Mr Thaksin left Singapore for China and will head for Japan next.
The military government has ordered radio and TV stations to stop carrying his statements – a move that backfired. “The order was widely criticised and the administration’s popularity took a dip,” wrote The Nation. And Mr Thaksin’s interview with CNN this weekend is certain to find its way back to Thailand over the Internet.
Left with only shadows to chase, the Thai authorities directed their ire at Singapore, rebuking it for allowing a private meeting between Deputy Prime Minister S Jayakumar and Mr Thaksin to take place.
On Thursday, Army Chief Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin spoke of his frustration over Mr Thaksin’s family selling Shin Corp to a consortium led by Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. “The armed forces are currently experiencing a problem,” said Gen Sonthi. “We pick up a phone, the line runs to Singapore. We talk about confidential matters, it goes to Singapore.
“Although Singapore is not our enemy, we are economic rivals. They could be informed of secrets in the army and the economic sector.”
While Singapore was being held up as the bogeyman, the anger was clearly directed at Mr Thaksin, who refuses to fade from the scene despite repeating that he had had enough of politics.
Looking at the signals coming out of Bangkok, political commentator Yang Razali Kassim said: “This serves to show that the current government is coming under increasing stress, which means it will become even more sensitive.”
The strand that links all the wild speculation is a very real fear that Mr Thaksin will continue to hit back from a distance, provoking his supporters with subversive messages. When the New Year’s Eve blasts rocked Bangkok, many in the Thai administration were convinced that “Thaksin’s army” was taking matters in its own hands – an allegation he has firmly denied.
“Thaksin is a man who revels in counter-attack,” wrote The Nation.
With the new Thai administration still finding its feet – and mis-steps like the bungled capital controls giving him fodder – Mr Thaksin has indicated that he will keep sniping away at those that deposed him.
The Thai government cannot stop him or silence him. Its counter-attack has not hurt him. But heavy artillery can cause collateral damage. –
Thaksin Shinawatra, former Thai leader, makes case to the world
Published: January 19, 2007
BANGKOK: Maintaining a high profile, Thailand’s deposed prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, is continuing his long tour through Asia, traveling from Singapore to Japan and hiring an American public relations firm to represent him.
After he arrived in Tokyo on Thursday night, Japanese officials took pains to say they would not be talking with him, following an angry reaction in Bangkok after he met with a government official in Singapore.
“We have our relations with the current Thai government to consider,” said a Foreign Ministry official, Masahiro Yoshida, according to wire service reports. “We are aware that the government is very sensitive about this issue.”
But Thaksin now seems determined to make himself heard.
He has hired the public relations firm Edelman, which is based in Chicago and New York, to help arrange meetings with the press. He is represented in Washington by another public relations firm.
“We’re working with him in his capacity as a private citizen and supporting some media outreach to support his efforts to return to Thailand,” said Alan VanderMolen, vice president for the Asia-Pacific area for Edelman, in a telephone interview from Hong Kong.
Showing their concern over his public appearances, the generals who took power in the Sept. 19 coup called a meeting of television executives on Jan. 10 and admonished them not to air messages or statements from Thaksin.
This week, military leaders said they were afraid that Singapore might be listening in on their conversations through a major telecommunications company Thaksin sold them early last year.
“Our army has a problem now,” said the coup leader, Sonthi Boonyaratglin. “When we make a call, the line goes to Singapore. When we talk secrets, they go straight to Singapore.”
A spokesman for the junta, Sunsern Kaewkumnerd, said that Sonthi had ordered members of the military leadership to avoid talking on mobile telephones susceptible to eavesdropping through that company.
An interview with Thaksin broadcast Monday by CNN was blocked by the local cable operator, UBC, which said it had exercised self-censorship. But text of the interview was carried by local newspapers and could be seen on YouTube, the Internet video clips Web site.
Media monitoring groups have criticized the attempts by the military-appointed government to block footage of Thaksin from being aired on local television stations.
“This attempt at censorship casts the Thai authorities in a poor light and is in many ways pointless,” Ian Williams, the president of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, wrote this week in a letter to Surayud Chulanont, the military-appointed prime minister.
A spokeswoman for UBC, which carries CNN in Thailand, said it would not run the full Thaksin interview scheduled for Saturday.
Kantima Kunjara, the spokeswoman, said the country’s ruling generals had “asked all media for cooperation in not covering news that could lead to confusion, nonunity and conflict in the society.” UBC, she said, “has complied.”
The print media maintained a more aggressive stance.
“Thaksin has again counterattacked,” wrote The Nation, an English language daily, in a commentary.
“When his stories were banned on Thai airwaves he opted to take his complaints to the world media, which had more of an impact on international perceptions of the situation in Thailand,” the newspaper said. “Throughout his life, Thaksin has shown he is a man who revels in an attack or counterattack.”
In comparison, it said, the ruling junta seems rarely on the offensive.
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