Democrat Party and Blue Sky Channel

1 03 2012

A reader sent PPT a link to a story in the Thai-language newspaper Daily News that might be of interest to others. A report is also now in the Bangkok Post.

In the story, it is reported that a group called the Media for Democracy Club has petitioned parliament’s House committee on law, justice and human rights regarding the Democrat Party’s alleged share ownership in the satellite television station Blue Sky Channel. The petitioners claim that the station was founded by former Democrat Party Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban and that shares are held by the party. This is said to be in breach of the constitution and reason for dissolving the party.

Article 48 of the constitution states:

No person holding a political position shall be the owner of, or hold shares in, newspaper, radio or television broadcasting or telecommunication business, irrespective of whether he so commits in his name, or through his proxy or nominee, or by other direct or indirect means which enable him to administer such business as if he is the owner of, or hold shares in, such business.

This is not a particularly new story in that when the channel was launched in November 2011, questions were immediately raised about affiliation with the Democrat Party. What is new is the petition to parliament and claims that Democrat Party member Sirichoke Sopha has claimed that he pays the satellite bill for the station.

When the station was launched, The Nation stated that the principal was a “former president of the Thai Broadcast Journalists Association,” Takerng Somthup. He said the satellite television was launched to “provide news and information programmes to support people in rural communities.” The report immediately added that: “Questions have been raised about the channel’s political affiliation due to a variety talk by the leader of the opposition.”

The report went on to note that the first show highlighted was a “a variety talk show” that featured Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. Party members promoted the station and “Abhisit’s programme,” and stated that although “the channel’s identity, colour and theme were akin to that of the Democrat Party,” denied “any link between the station and the party, saying the party would be violating the Constitution if it became involved.”

The channel was essentially set up to be the voice of the Democrat Party and aimed at countering red shirt media in rural areas and promoted anti-Puea Thai and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra shows and commentators.

The claim that the party and members are shareholders has been denied by the party in a story at the Bangkok Post (linked above).