Radio Host Says He Was Fired For Criticizing Army

Chalermchai Yodmalai
Chalermchai Yodmalai

BANGKOK — A radio talk show host said Tuesday he was dismissed for disparaging the armed forces, but a station executive has blamed poor ratings and shoddy ethics.

Chalermchai Yodmalai said he was asked by FM101 Radio to discontinue the morning news program, “101 News Angle,” on Friday. Chalermchai said the order came days after he criticized the army for arms purchases and alleged graft.

“She told me the military told her [about their unhappiness],” Chalermchai said, referring to a station director. “[The military] threatened not to renew the [news station’s frequency] concession, which would mean all the staff could lose their jobs.”

Although FM101 is privately owned, it requires a concession granted by the army for its operations.

The executive, who would only identify herself as Jiab, disputed Chalermchai’s assertion. In a phone interview, she said Chalermchai was an independent news host who worked on a contract basis.

She added that Chalermchai had been repeatedly making “unsubstantiated criticism” against the armed forces, and that he had been warned several times before. Jiab said low listenership was also a factor in the dismissal.

“We are always under the Thai armed forces,” Jiab said. “We have warned him many times and there are multiple issues. Ratings. News without clear sources. We spoke with him many times.”

But Chalermchai said the termination of his contract was the first and only warning. He said it was Jiab who told him on Friday that he need not show up again for the Monday morning program, which runs from 6am to 7am.

FM101 is one of nearly 200 radio stations which has obtained frequency concessions from the military. The army alone owns 127 FM and AM frequencies, according to the Thai Broadcast Journalists’ Association’s figures.

Chalermchai, who also works for the pro-government Naew Na newspaper, said dismissing him was an unfair measure. He said if the military feels that he committed libel, it can always file a defamation lawsuit.

He said his program touched on the army’s spending spree on new military equipment and alleged misconduct among students at the National Defense College, where some students have been accused of buying their way in and hiring others to write theses on their behalf.

“Well, if you ask me, we can criticize the military. Why can’t we criticize it? If it caused damage, then they can sue,” Chalermchai said on the phone. “I know their character, they don’t like people talking about their business.”

Jiab admitted that the military regularly listens to what her station broadcasts.

“They do monitor [us],” Jiab said.