Thai Junta sets up panels to monitor the media and the anti-coup group in exile
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Thai Junta sets up panels to monitor the media and the anti-coup group in exile

The Bangkok Post:

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has set up five panels to monitor content in all branches of the media.

Any media found spreading inappropriate content will face criminal charges, said Pol Gen Adul.

The Thai Journalists Association says the NCPO’s guidelines are too broad and could result in the rights of the media being trampled on.

Nattharavut Muangsuk, a media representative, said the NCPO was asking for the media’s cooperation in not carrying reports that may widen divisions or criticise the coup.

It was obvious the order implied that the NCPO wanted to interfere with the media’s work.

The Nation:

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has assigned agencies to look into information disseminated to the public via different kinds of media.

They have been instructed to further understanding by the public about the work of the NCPO, and also to stem the flow of false information that may lead to hatred of the monarchy. The agencies have been told also to refer to the NCPO any information that may affect its work.

The TJA also voiced concern when it learned that a military officer walked into a newspaper’s editorial office and asked the editors not to publish reports related to a certain prominent figure from the previous government.

The TJA board will be meeting today to discuss the issue.

Another Bangkok Post article:

Upon finding news items deemed detrimental to the NCPO and the royal institution, they are to send a daily and weekly report to Pol Gen Adul and the NCPO chief.

BP: Regarding the monarchy no critical discussion is allowed so on this issue things may not change so much (although do think the military will give an even broader meaning to the term criticism) so the key is the part about news critical of the NCPO. This also appears to be interpreted broadly. On the issue of The Nation mentioning a newspaper being visited by the military to not publish reports about a certain prominent figure from the previous government, this sounds very vague. Fortunately, Pravit of The Nation on twitter has clarified what this is regarding:

 BP: This organization is the new anti-coup organization. VOA:

The first sign of organized opposition to Thailand’s military coup has emerged, with an ex-government minister vowing to work with fellow dissidents to restore “democratic principles.”

The formation of the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy was announced Tuesday in an open letter by Jarupong Ruangsuwan.

Jarupong was the head of the Pheu Thai party of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who was ousted by a Constitutional Court ruling just before the military takeover in May.

He said the new campaign will help organize resistance, both inside and outside the country, to the military, which he said was undemocratic and trying to preserve its role in politics.

AP has more:

A Cabinet minister in Thailand’s former elected government has established a group in exile to oppose the military regime.

Former Interior Minister Charupong Reuangsuwan said Tuesday in an open letter read on YouTube and posted on Facebook that the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy rejects the junta’s legitimacy.

Charupong led the Pheu Thai Party that won the 2011 election. Its opponents launched aggressive street protests last year to demand it hand over power to an appointed government that would make reforms.

The army ousted the elected government in a coup on May 22, and Charupong defied its order to surrender, apparently fleeing to neighboring Cambodia.

The junta has threatened its opponents with harsh jail terms.

In his statement, Charupong outlined the following goals:

1. To oppose the military dictatorship and its aristocratic network, and establish the people’s complete and unchallenged sovereignty;

2. To restore and strengthen Thai democracy so that it becomes the stable founding pillar of the Thai state;

3. To guarantee and nurture respect for human dignity, equality, freedom, and peace;

4. To promote a free and fair economy;

5. To reform Thai culture so that its values are fully consistent with democracy;

6. To fully develop and improve the quality of life for all Thai citizens.

BP: So reporting about Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy (FT-HD) is seemingly illegal or frowned upon – although criticizing FT-HD and Charupong in particular is clearly not illegal as demonstrated by two critical op-eds and a critical editorial in the Bangkok Post. In many ways it is not surprising as this is the whole point of setting up such an organization in the first place. As blogged previously:

A government in exile was unlikely to work, but an organization in exile may be a better format although will need some people of some sway to be treated seriously (Jakrapob is not sufficient). Foreign countries wouldn’t have to officially recognize it as a government in exile so there would be no conflict with Thailand and quite a few countries may engage with it at some level. More importantly in the current state of “new found freedom” in Thailand where anyone criticizing the junta is detained and told to cease political activities otherwise they will be criminally prosecuted, such an organization would then basically serve as a critic in exile or opposition to the junta.

BP is unsure how long such an organization would serve a useful function, but in the next couple of months protesting is going to be difficult although BP goes expect restrictions to gradually decline over time particularly once we have an interim government in place.*** Formal statements critical of the coup will also be difficult. No domestic political group can provide a statement. Thus the usefulness of an entity in exile is they can. If the organization has enough political sway their statements will get picked up by the Thai press. No doubt it will cause a shit-storm locally and talks of kinds of banning and thus serving any PR purpose in the first place….

BP: One of the problems for coup opponents now is that criticizing the coup is illegal (although there is still some criticism out there) so this limits the number of sound bytes of criticism of the junta. Those outside of Thailand don’t face such restrictions (as along as they don’t plan a return to Thailand anytime soon) so they can provide a source for criticism of the junta. With Charupong as the head of FT-HD – and given he was the leader of Puea Thai and Interior Minister in the previous government he is someone with some sway – so essentially he becomes an annoyance to the junta who of course are trying to ban such reports about FT-HD.  Now, even if reports are banned in the local media (more likely the ban will focus more on TV) such statements will still be picked up in the international media and it won’t be possible to ban all their statements given social media although they won’t then get a wide audience. Nevertheless, being banned is going to increase tensions between the junta and the media particularly once we the NLA, the “civilian” PM, and the Cabinet. The FT-HD will just be waiting in the wings for mistakes by the junta and will no doubt come out with criticism which will further annoy the junta.