BANGKOK — A spokesperson for Thailand’s military government has expressed concern over a recent CNN report’s "misleading presentation" of events in post-coup Thailand.
Col. Sansern Kaewkumnerd, spokesperson of the Office of Prime Minister, warned yesterday that the CNN report, titled "More held in military-led Thailand after flashing 'Hunger Games' salute," may mislead international audiences into believing there is an ongoing anti-coup protest movement in Thailand.
"The fact that CNN presented the news by using old footage may mislead people into thinking that the situation in our country has not returned to normalcy yet," Col. Sansern said. "They may think there's a lot of conflict here."
The article, published on 20 November, describes the recent arrests of student activists who staged flash protests against the military junta in Bangkok and Khon Kaen province.
Student activists in Khon Kaen interrupt PM Prayuth Chan-ocha on 19 November to flash an anti-coup salute.
Although a video published with the article does feature some older footage of substantially larger anti-coup protests that occurred in late May, the news content is focused on more recent developments, such as the five student activists in Khon Kaen who interrupted a speech by the junta leader on 19 November to flash the forbidden three-finger salute, an anti-coup gesture inspired by "The Hunger Games" movies.
The next day, police arrested two more student activists in Bangkok for attempting to organise a mass screening of the latest installment of "The Hunger Games" trilogy, "Mockingjay – Part One." Another student was also arrested for raising the three-finger salute in the lobby of a cinema where the film was being shown.
Natcha Kong-udom was arrested by police after she began flashing the three-finger salute in Siam Paragon's cinema, 20 Nov 2014.
The CNN report also quoted several activists and human rights experts who have criticised the Thai junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), for infringing on freedom of expression in Thailand since the 22 May 2014 coup.
"There's little indication the opposition is going away, nor is there anything like national elections on the immediate horizon suggesting a return to civilian rule," the report noted.
Today, Col. Sansern said the US-based news agency should understand that "the situation in our country is not one hundred percent perfect. The problems in their country and the problems in our country are different."
The spokesperson, who was also quoted in the CNN article, added that retaining martial law is necessary because it allows security forces to "put an end to any incident" as soon as it happens. Normal laws would prevent security forces from acting swifly because of their "many procedures," Col. Sansern said.
Under martial law, security forces do not need a warrant to search and arrest any person that they have “reasonable ground to suspect” is violating the junta's orders.
"Our main concern is the happiness of the people and safety of the public," the spokesperson told reporters this morning. "If the people in our country feel satisfied, and if there is peace and order in the country, foreigners will see it."
According to the Col. Sansern said, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been instructed to "create understanding" with CNN's editorial board.
"We are worried about this issue. However, let me insist that we still respect the [rights] of Thai and foreign media," Col. Sansern asserted. "But their news presentation has to rest on facts."