The media is not free

18 09 2010

Following the reported investigation of Fah Diew Kan and the earlier official prevention of printing for Somyos Prueksakasemsuk‘s Red Power magazine, seasoned media academic Ubonrat Siriyuwasak, chairwoman of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), has been reported as damning the lack of media freedom under the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime.

While calling for “respect for freedom of expression,” Ubonrat recognized that different groups in Thai society “don’t enjoy equal levels of freedom…”, this report includes this observation: “Yesterday … an independent bookshop owner in Bangkok told The Nation an officer in uniform stood and stared at the Fah Diew Kan magazine for more than ten minutes without uttering a single word.” The owner of the shop said: “I feel a bit threatened. Another bookshop has already removed the magazine from its shelves.”

Ubonrat warns: “When the right to oppose is taken away, it will affect citizens’ rights in general. Freedom cannot be divided, because just like clouds [in the sky] it belongs to us all.”

Supinya Klangnarong, a former CPMR coordinator, warned that the regime’s crackdown on opposition media would make society “more regressive”.

Of course, media is just one avenue of the continuing repression that is the hallmark of the current Abhisit regime.

Red shirts defiant

13 09 2010

Two stories of note in Prachatai.

First, Somyos Phrueksakasemsuk, editor of Red Power magazine, remains defiant. He has told the press “that the government’s order to halt 11 printing presses of the Golden Power Printing Co, which was hired to print the magazine, caused over 10 million baht damage to the company.  This was the act of a government that abused its power, acted like a political hoodlum, was devoid of humanity, was hypocritical and used power in an underhand way.” Somyos says he is ready to print daily and weekly editions and will do so from a Chiang Mai base.

Second, on Sunday 12 September, a group of red shirts led by Sombat Boonngamanong “rode bicycles on a route around Ratchaprasong, while a group of activist students wearing makeup to look like dead people walked and rode the BTS skytrain in the shopping area.” Prachatai’s story includes a slide show of events and collage pictures. Sombat also talks of events planned for 19 September.

With 2 updates: More and more censorship

10 09 2010

PPT is not surprised to see the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime continuing its determined bid to repress as much red shirt media as possible. The latest case involves the recently relaunched Red Power magazine, put out by Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, a red-shirt activist with the 24 June Democracy group.

In a throwback to the times of military despotism, the Nonthaburi Provincial Governor seems to have personally “led police to seize copies of  and halt the printing presses of a company hired to print the magazine.”

Prachatai reports that the story hit the ASTV-Manager, which says that on 9 September, “police used a search warrant from the Nonthaburi Provincial Court to conduct a search of the Golden Power Printing Co at Soi Ngamwongwan 27 in Nonthaburi, which had been hired to print Red Power magazine. The police seized printed materials related to the magazine, and ordered the stoppage of 11 printing machines, which could not be moved but could be used to print other publications. Copies of some books were also seized. The police said that the company ran the printing business without permission, violating the Factory Act.”

It seems that the previous day, Governor Wichean Phutthiwinyu, using the authority provided to him by the “Emergency Decree, led a team of police and officials to search the company, and seized a quantity of unusable printed pages of Red Power magazine, employee records and other documents. Some employees were investigated, and the company was ordered to stop printing the magazine.”

Emergency decree used to stop printers

It is worth noting that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban had earlier specifically mentioned Red Power as a potential target for closure. On 1 September he stated that, “This [threat] is not media intimidation. The CRES [Centre for the Resolution of Emergency Situations] has discussed print media which claims to be mass media. But its content is not normal information. It incites hatred and anger among people, and aims to cause rifts. So the CRES has considered this and ordered legal action against it. I understand that it’s called Red Power or something.”

The fear of red shirt media is great amongst the elite backing Abhisit and his government. They do not want “sensitive” topics discussed at all – monarchy, corruption, military venality – so like the dictators of the past, they attack media and even printers.

Update 1: Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation also comments on this state raid on opposition media. He says there are now “at least four [red shirt] publications now available in some parts of Bangkok and beyond. However, the government appears determined to suppress them, or at least stifle the most vocal ones.”

Following the raid led by the Nonthaburi Governor, Pravit says that  Somyos has gone into hiding after learning that “some 10 plainclothes police officers keeping an eye out for him.” CRES warned “the publishers of Red Power might be guilty of defaming the royal institution, though no evidence has been produced so far.” But it’s always the bottom line for the royalist regime.

Mahaprachachon (from

Pravit refers to other red shirt publications: People’s Channel weekly, launched in August, and the recent  Mahaprachachon Sudsapda (The Great Mass of People Weekender), with Veera Musigapong as its adviser, and seemingly a”reincarnation of the Truth Today weekly magazine, now trumpeting ‘peace and non-violence’ in order to thwart possible censorship.”

Apparently, many “bookshops and newsagents are refusing to carry red-shirt titles either out of fear of upsetting the authorities or because of their anti-red stance.” Pravit then makes an interesting point:  “As a clear sign of the great political divide between the rich and poor, most of these red-shirt publications are found in the periphery or the poorer parts of the capital. There is only one bookshop in the Siam Square area known to this writer that dares carry these magazines and newspapers.”

He refers to a “culture of censorship” in much of the mainstream media and adds: “Thailand is steadily becoming ‘a censored society’ where some trains of thought can be illegal, or even a crime, making speaking about certain taboo topics an exercise in political courage. Censorship is prevalent in societies that cannot deal with differences openly and peacefully. If those in power can’t accept your views, they try to shut you up. If you refuse to shut up, then you end up in jail either over charges of violating the emergency decree, the lese majeste law or the computer crime law. In extreme cases, you can die just like the red-shirt protesters did earlier this year. Killing can be a form of censorship too, you know.”

Well said Khun Pravit.

Update 2: has more recent red shirt publications here.

With a major update: Red Siam

3 09 2010

Ambika Ahuja has a Reuters story worth reading. It focuses on lese majeste accused Surachai Danwattananusorn or Surachai Sae Dan. Surachai is described as a “former communist and political prisoner,” and is said to have “a dramatic solution to fix Thailand’s political crisis: a ‘democratic revolution’ to end what he sees as a monopoly of power by the royalist elite.”

This solution – a more democratic society – is likely to be seen as “revolutionary” in highly conservative Thailand. Indeed, the story claims that the “Red Siam” group “comes dangerously close to republicanism…”. Even the mainstream red shirts distanced themselves from Red Siam for being too radical earlier in the year.

Surachai claims that democratization that gets rid of elite dominance is the only way for the country to avoid becoming a “failed state under the current power structure…”. For Red Siam, that includes an ” end what it sees as a royalist power structure.”

While that may seem a dream, it is clear that there is now a broad questioning of the rich and grasping elite and also of the monarchy. Some of our recent posts attest to this. So long as the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime fails to promote real democracy – and it is genetically unable to do this – the more likely it is that the royalist elite will face further challenge.

Update: Thanks to, readers can have access to some of the most recent issue of Red Power, which links post above and here. Maybe this (right) is the reason the Democrat Party leadership is up in arms about the issue. There is much more here.

There is a lot more available on earlier red shirt publications at the same website, which has a yellow hue, but remains an excellent resource.

Thai journalists’ association on censorship

2 09 2010

PPT is a little bemused by the latest reported statement from the Thai Journalists’ Association. The Bangkok Post reports that the TJA is standing up against censorship. But is it?

Yes, the TJA is making noises about the recent statement by Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd of the Centre for the Resolution of the Emergency Situation saying that it might need to ban some newspapers and magazines that “present distorted reports, incited disunity and produced reports that insulted the royal institution.” And, yes, the TJA vice-president Sadet Bunnag said “Section 45 of the 2007 constitution prohibited the closure of any publication or media outlet by means that could be interpreted as violating the freedom of the press.”  And he did add that “the constitution permitted authorities to remove content that violated the law but such censorship should be carried out in a transparent manner.”

But then Sadet called on Sansern “to identify the publication he was referring to to end the confusion.” So it is confusion that matters rather than censorship itself?

So Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Taugsuban comes out and states: “the anti-government Thai Red Power weekly magazine had presented distorted news inciting hatred and national disunity.”

That would seem alright for the TJA. After all, where have they been as the Abhisit Vejjajiva government has closed more media outlets than any government since at least the royalist Thanin Kravixien regime of 1976-77? Closing red shirt media seems not to bother the TJA too much.

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