Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has done it again. He’s gone to the international media and made claims that are evidently false. This time he was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. Go to the Wall Street Journal and click the first video box – with Abhisit’s photo – to get the statement as an almost 3 minute video.
These statements to the international media are Abhisit’s forte, and PPT has shown previously that he has lied. He does this in part because he goes unchallenged in the interviews and in part because he seems to now believe his own propaganda. One of his statements that stood out for us was at about 0:42, where Abhisit seeks to “correct” the view that the opposition is blocked. He says: “there is no limitation of space for the opposition…”. He then adds that the government is “allowing” political debate. This is a bald-faced lie. The government has closed virtually all opposition outlets while it controls the vast bulk of electronic media and has a swathe of supporters in the mainstream media.
For a better visual perspective on the censorship of opposition media, just look at the graphic with the story (reproduced right). That is a better indication of the true level of media censorship and control in Abhisit’s Thailand. Just on the web, while the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology say they have “blocked at least 40,000 web pages this year, according to the government’s, which monitors the Internet. Free-speech activists say authorities are blocking at least 110,000 sites, based on government disclosures and spot checks online.”
Human Rights Watch is cited as claiming that “Thailand’s censorship [is] a ‘broad-brush clampdown’ that ‘violated Thailand’s obligations to respect media freedom and freedom of expression’.”
The 2007 Computer Crimes Act “imposes penalties for illegal activities online. Thai authorities also rely on a strict lèse majesté rule, dating back a century, that limits discussion of Thailand’s royal family. Thai authorities recently expanded a team tracking inappropriate discussion of the monarchy online and elsewhere to 120 people from two previously.”
In his interview, Abhisit comments that authorities are “mindful” that “there could be abuses” in deciding what to block and in the use of emergency powers. As he has falsely claimed previously, he said “we’ll put things right” if there are problems. When he’s said this previously the result has usually been heavier censorship. [Update: As is now usual, when Abhisit speaks of "freedom," the next step is a further attempt to extend unfreedom - see here.]
At least Abhisit seems to claim that Thailand is not a democratic country, when he compares Thailand to “democratic countries” (at about 2:10).