The Bangkok Post:
The air force chief said yesterday the government should not let Thaksin Shinawatra make a live phone call to a gathering of his supporters tomorrow, and warned of the consequences if the phone call does go ahead. ACM Itthiporn Supawong said anyone causing problems in the country must be held fully accountable for the consequences.
”The way to lessen the tension is that the government must prepare itself in advance.
”It’s not right when it knows something is bound to happen and it still doesn’t do anything to prevent it,” he said.
”Whoever it is, the government, or anyone who is in charge, must explain where it stands. It should not allow [the phone-in] and then make excuses later. That doesn’t help,” he said.
ACM Itthiporn said the status of the person planning to phone in was clear. To broadcast his remarks could damage the country, he said.
State media outlets should not be used by any group, he added.
Thaksin’s phone call may be aired via the internet and on the state-run NBT television station. ACM Itthiporn’s comments were made before a meeting of the Defence Council yesterday.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, who also attended the meeting, claimed it was beyond his power to stop the phone-in being broadcast.
Thaksin’s phone call will be aired at the mobile political talk show Kwam Jing Wan Nee (The Truth Today) at Rajamangala stadium tomorrow.
BP: I can understand the rationale for not wanting to use state TV, but I don’t remember a single other instance where Thaksin has spoken or his actual words broadcast on TV since the coup. It is a news event. It is extraordinary that merely him speaking creates this backlash. The media should report the news.
In regards to military concerns over the use of state TV, Sondhi L was given his own show on state TV by the junta and I don’t remember any complaints then.
The Post in an editorial:
The event organisers have claimed that the programme will not be provocative. That remains to be seen. Should it turn out otherwise, the UDD must be held accountable.
There is widespread concern that Thaksin – who has been jailed for two years in absentia by the Supreme Court – might, intentionally or inadvertently, say something deemed offensive or provocative that could exacerbate the current tense political atmosphere.
This concern is shared by Supreme Commander Songkitti Chakkrabat, who said yesterday that the programme could be potentially provocative.
Academics themselves are divided about whether or not the phone-in programme should be allowed to be broadcast on television.
Those who agree with the programme feel that the former premier should be free to express his views and that any attempt to censor or stop the programme would go against the principle of free expression.
BP: One reson cited is that Thaksin might attack the court and we can’t let those who defame the judiciary a voice. Prasong Soonsiri accussed judges of taking bribes to let off Thaksin in 2001. He was convicted of defamation and this decision was upheld on appeal. He was sentenced to 2 years, suspended of course. Again, this has not stopped him from playing a role. He played a major role in the post-coup environment despite his statements occcuring long before that.
On what Thaksin will say, I expect him to be rather concilitory and take about old times. There will be some red meat for the masses, but it is political rally. It is a PR stunt as Avudh opined in The Nation the other day:
The buzz of anticipation about his phone-in from London may prove more exciting than the actual message of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, scheduled for Saturday.
BP: Needless to say, Thaksin didn’t need to advertise he would be speaking, his critics did it for him.
I thought his letter was quite reasonable the other day, aside from the liberal democracy reference. Compare that with your average speech at a PAD rally, but there is an effort to prevent him from people listening to what he says. Now, the standard is he may merely say something inadvertently offensive or provocative and this is enough to censor him. What about at the PAD rallies where Sonthi L et al intentionally say provocative things everyday. I don’t seem him or the other PAD leaders being held accountable for stirring up political tensions.