The Media in Thailand

KAT’S EYE
By KATRINA LEGARDA

There
seems to be martial law in Thailand. There are reports of corruption in
Thailand. The new government officials are embarked on self-promotion
to gain acceptance by the people who, one morning last year, woke up to
find that a military coup had overturned their democratically elected
prime minister. What I find interesting is that the government of
Thailand has even been able to wiggle a new constitution through, and
it looks like this document is about to be implemented – whether the
Thai people like it or not.

 
 

There seems to be martial law in Thailand. There are reports of
corruption in Thailand. The new government officials are embarked on
self-promotion to gain acceptance by the people who, one morning last
year, woke up to find that a military coup had overturned their
democratically elected prime minister. What I find interesting is that
the government of Thailand has even been able to wiggle a new
constitution through, and it looks like this document is about to be
implemented – whether the Thai people like it or not.

And media in Thailand views all these events in a sober manner.
There are no screaming headlines – at least not in the English language
newspaper that is delivered to our hotel room.

The front page of the Bangkok Post today, as I write this, has a
headline, in lower-case and sober font: “PM puts off emergency
declaration.” Whoa. Huh? What was that? And right next to it, almost
the same size, is a photo of the paper’s supplement that won some
award. On the photo? The King of Thailand playing his trumpet- or
saxophone.

I wondered whether the sober headline was made out of fear that the
paper may be shut down. Apparently, huge anti-government rallies are
expected in Bangkok and other areas today, against the expected move of
the government to decree a national emergency. We Filipinos know what
that means. Emergency situations require emergency powers – including
the lifting of writs of habeas corpus, warrantless searches and
seizures, midninght, warrantless arrests.

Why such sober news report? Is it because, also in the news today,
the government has set up a national committee to place controls on
television, film, magazines, and websites to ensure a “safe and
creative media.” The government in our country announces that – the
government in our country will be thrown out of power. Hello! It just
goes to show that each nation has its own tolerance level. We complied
and were compliant for a long time. So long, that when we did rise up
in righteous indignation, a dynasty of cronies and whatnots were
overthrown. They are back, by the way, but we are not quite so
complacent anymore. Sometimes we remember that every right – however
small – must be fought for. A free media is one of those rights, or
where would we be again today?

Apart from media controls, emergency powers, and a new constitution,
the Thai are also gearing up for a law, soon to be passed apparently,
that seeks to control drinking. Drinking! The paper tells me that under
this proposed law, no alcohol advertising will be allowed and anyone
below 20 years old will not be allowed to drink. OK, I get that. Many
states in the USA do not allow drinking before the age of 21 years old.
But let’s look at what happened in Chiang Mai just today. A 57 year old
Swiss lawyer was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His crime? He defaced
a photo of the King while under the influence of alcohol. That is the
crime of lese majeste. Hmm. He was definitely over 20 years old. Idiocy has no boundaries.

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