2007-12-28 09:04:12 –
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – A Thai TV news show was blocked from broadcasting an interview with deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which contained reactions to his allies’ victory in last weekend’s election, senior editors said Friday.
Channel TITV, which is controlled by the military-installed government, planned to air an interview with the deposed leader
on Wednesday evening but the program was replaced at the last minute, said Jom Petchphradub, the program’s host who conducted the interview in Hong Kong.
Thaksin, who has been living abroad since the coup, was in Hong Kong during and after Sunday’s general election.
Thaksin’s allies in the People’s Power Party won 233 of 480 seats in the lower house of parliament and say they have gathered enough support from smaller parties to form a coalition government, a prospect that concerns the military generals and those who backed their September 2006 coup.
In a 40-minute interview conducted Monday, Thaksin voiced his reaction to the election, his plans to eventually return to Thailand and spoke about his year in self-imposed exile, among other topics, Jom told The Associated Press.
Jom said officials in the government’s Public Relations Department, which falls under the Prime Minister’s Office, called one of his editors to inquire about the interview, which was subsequently yanked from the air Wednesday evening.
The channel’s news editor, Sonthayan Chuenraethainaitam, confirmed that the interview was pulled from the air but said he did not have details «from the officials concerned.
It was unclear if government officials barred the broadcast or if the network’s executives censored the program after getting a call from the Public Relations Department.
The head of the Public Relations Department, the only official authorized to comment on the matter, was not immediately available, his office said.
Thaksin held a news conference Tuesday in Hong Kong, saying he is exploring options to return to Thailand between mid-February and April. He vowed to stay out of direct politics but said he was prepared to serve as adviser to the PPP. Excerpts of that interview were shown on Thai news shows.
Thaksin was accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power. Since his ouster, the military-installed government has
been criticized for restricting television and radio coverage of Thaksin and blocked Internet sites critical of the government.
TITV _ which stands for Thailand Independent Television _ is currently controlled by the Prime Minister’s Office. The military-backed government revoked TITV’s broadcasting license in March, after the station said it was unable to pay nearly 100 billion baht (US$3 billion; euro2.3 billion) in fines, unpaid broadcasting license fees and interest due to the government.
Until the takeover, the network, which was previously called iTV, had been the country’s only privately owned station. From 2001 to 2006 it was controlled by the family of Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon. During that time it was accused of biased coverage on political news in favor of Thaksin.
The station was part of Thaksin’s former telecommunications empire, Shin Corp., which was sold to the Singapore government’s investment arm, Temasek Holdings, in January 2006.
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