Bowing To Junta's Pressure, Thai PBS Axes 'Reform' Broadcast

Nattaya Wawweerakhup, the recently fired host of Thai PBS's  "Voices of the People."

BANGKOK — Thailand’s military junta has reportedly ordered a publicly funded TV station to drop a talk show that discussed dissatisfaction with the 22 May coup.

At least four colonels visited Thai PBS’s headquarters in Bangkok and instructed the station’s directors to stop broadcasting a talk show in which the host, Nattaya Wawweerakhup, asked villagers and activists for their opinions about the junta’s reform process, Isra News reported on Friday.

Nattaya had been interviewing activists in the southern province of Songkhla for her show, called "Voices of the People That Must Be Heard Before the Reform."

Thai PBS executives reportedly agreed to adjust the program and strip the show down to "news format," without the forum session. The host, Nattaya, was also removed from the show altogether, Thai PBS announced yesterday.

After a lengthy proclamation that the company was committed to press freedom and media ethics, Thai PBS explained that it was necessary for the station to "temporarily change the host" of the show. 

The station executives also referred to the military officers' visit as a constructive "meeting to reach mutual understanding about the role of public media."

Sources inside the "armed force for maintaining peace and order," a security apparatus that answers directly to the military junta's National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), confirmed to Khaosod that the order was approved by "high-ranking commanders of the NCPO."

According to the sources, the military is "very upset" by the way Nattaya asked villagers about their "satisfaction" with the junta's reform plans. 

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed that Thai PBS director Somchai Suwanban first agreed to "adjust the program," but was approached again after Nattaya taped another forum in Nakhon Pathom and asked participants similar questions about the coup. 

"The same group of officers then met with Somchai again. They asked him why this thing kept happening, after an understanding had been reached," one of the sources said. 

Last March Thai PBS, which is regarded by critics as a supporter of the movement that ousted the former government, bowed to pressure from a group of ultra-royalists and axed a televised show that featured debates about the Thai monarchy.

This week's incident is latest crackdown on the press by the NCPO after it staged a coup against the elected government on 22 May 2014. 

Since seizing power, the junta has banned any criticism of the regime, crushed any political protests, and briefly detained hundreds of activists.

In a meeting between the junta representatives and editors of 17 newspapers on 12 November, military officers reportedly told the journalists that there is a limit to what they can report. 

“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the Prime Minister and NCPO leader, has never censored the media. We are open, but please stay within the limits. [We] don’t want any colour. [You media] must report news positively," Lt.Gen Suchai Pongput was quoted as saying.

 

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