Reacting to “incorrect” views

16 11 2014

Anyone with even a passing interest in Thailand knows that the current military dictatorship is Orwellian in its doublespeak, repressive of opponents and any person perceived as potentially straying from the royalist-militarist ideology and censorial of almost everything political.

A day or so ago, PPT posted on a military threat to ThaiPBS over a program that the military found just too challenging. According to a new report in Khaosod, the program “was airing complaints from the public about the 22 May coup.”

The military boot came in the form of a group of officers showing up at the broadcaster and telling them to get with the military’s agenda or face the consequences. The executives at the station, never particularly brave, quickly caved, and dumped the presenter and changed the format to “military-lite.”

The recently-appointed/anointed commander-in-chief of the Army has insisted that this action was necessary. General Udomdej Sitabutr who doubles as Deputy Minister of Defense, got very Orwellian, claiming that the visit to PBS was “not an order to suspend anything…”. He said that the military was “merely reacting” to “an attitude that displays mis-understanding about some matters…”. He called it a “conversation.” We imagine that military conversations are rather one-sided and akin to a conversation with a famished and agitated lion in that the outcome is known well in advance of being devoured.Orwell

Udomdej purred that “… we didn’t do anything much. We merely asked for their understanding.” He proclaimed that the media was pretty much under total control, referring to “constant” surveillance of the media since the coup. He stated that the military dictatorship asks “that those in charge of all types of media have understanding and cooperate with us. If we feel that some media reports, once broadcast out there, may lead to disorder or inappropriate consequences in the current situation, we will ask for cooperation, because we need to maintain peace and order.”

As Khaosod explains, this is just the latest act of massive censorship and repression by the military dictatorship: “Since seizing power, the junta has banned any criticism of the regime, crushed any political protests, and briefly detained hundreds of activists.”

The military dictatorship says this is not censorship. If they say it enough, some will believe them, maybe. For a script on how to understand the Orwellian moment, see Kong Rithdee’s latest op-ed.

Meanwhile, the often supine Thai Journalists Association has been spurred to action over PBS and states it “will push next week for the lifting of orders restricting freedom of expression of journalists and the general public, as well as martial law.”



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