- Censorship in Thailand
Freedom of speechin Thailandwas guaranteed in the articles 39, 40, 41 in the 1997 Constitution. [ [http://www.parliament.go.th/files/library/law3e-d.htm Thailand, the law book 1 ] ]
According to those articles,
censorshipmay be imposed to preserve national security, maintain public order, preserve the rights of others, protect public morals, and prevent criticism of the royal familyand insults to Buddhism. In addition, criticism of the King is banned by the Constitution. However, in 2007, king Bhumibol Adulyadej publicly stated that he was not a supernatural being and that if he did do anything wrong, he wanted to hear criticism so he could improve himself. It is thought that this step was taken to offset the many false charges of lese majeste in Thailand, most of which have been intentionally directed at foreigners or Thai opponents of political, social and commercial leaders.
The Thai government has a long history of censorship. This is attributed to a culture of authoritarianism and king-worship predating the 1932 transition to
parliamentary democracy. [ [http://www.cceia.org/viewMedia.php/prmID/516] Dead link|date=March 2008] Mechanisms for censorship have included strict lèse majestélaws, direct government/military control over the broadcast media, and the use of economic and political pressure. [ [http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501020318-216349,00.html Publish And Perish - TIME ] ]
Harassment, manipulation, and strict control of political news was common in the
Thaksingovernment (2001–2006). Reporters Without Bordersworld-wide press freedom index 2005 ranked Thailand 107th out of 167 countries dropped from 59th in 2004. [ [http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=554 Reporters sans frontières - Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index - 2005 ] ] Restrictions and media harassment worsened after a military junta overthrew the Thaksin government in a coup. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/08/18/opinion/opinion_30045480.php Junta's bills stifle free expression in run-up to vote] , 18 August 2007]
Book, the press and print media censorship
Under the 1941 Printing and Advertisement Act, the
Royal Thai PoliceSpecial Branch has the authority to issue warnings to publications for various violations such as disturbing the peace, interfering with public safety, or offending public morals. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eap/776.htm Thailand ] ]
However, the first book censorship in Thailand occurred with the advent of the first printing press in the country. Thailand's first law book was banned and all copies and the original manuscript were ordered destroyed. Fact|date=August 2007 According to a study by the Political Science Library at
Thammasat University, from 1850–1999, 1057 books and periodicals were officially banned by publication in the Royal Gazette, including many books considered one of the 100 books every Thai should read! Many titles reflect their era of anti- Communistfervor but were published both in Thailand and abroad in Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Bahasa, English, German, French and Spanish.
Historically, this and other acts have been used to severely restrict press freedom, especially during the military governments of
Plaek Pibulsonggram, Sarit Dhanarajata, and Thanom Kittikachorn(up to 1973). Books on Thai feudalism, the monarchy, and religion viewed by the Thai government as disruptive were banned and their authors imprisoned. [ [http://www.seasite.niu.edu/Thai/music/song4life/jit_pumisak.htm Thai Home Page ] ] A student-led uprising in 1973 led to a brief period of press freedom, until a violent military crackdown in 1976 resulted in a major clamp-down. The 1980s saw the gradual thawing of press censorship.
Sarakadee" magazine has published an excellent overview of book censorship in Thailand. [ [http://www.sarakadee.com/web/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=610] , [http://www.sarakadee.com/web/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=611] , and [http://www.sarakadee.com/web/modules.php?name=Sections&op=viewarticle&artid=612] – all in Thai]
Unless critical of the royal family, monarchy or sensitive government issues, foreign and domestic books normally are not censored and circulate freely. All public discussion of the death of 20-year old King
Ananda Mahidol, the present king's elder brother, of a single gunshot wound to the head is discouraged and not taught in schools even to history majors.
"The Devil's Discus" by Rayne Kruger (London: Cassell, 1964), a result of investigative reporting, which examines the case of King Ananda, was immediately banned and its author barred from Thailand. Curiously, neither the book's Japanese translation nor Thai in 1972 have been banned. However, the first 16 pages of all extant copies of "The Devil's Discus" in Thai have been excised and seem to have no missing text correspondent to the English original.
Incidentally, the premise of "The Devil's Discus" merely suggests three possibilities for the death of the young king:
regicide, suicideor accident, perhaps involving the king's younger brother, Bhumipol. Both boys were fond of playing with weapons and this particular handgun had been a gift to the king by a friend who was an American OSS (forerunner of the CIA) station agent in Bangkok, attached to the U.S. Embassy.
Widely considered to be the father of Thai democracy,
Pridi Banomyongwas a writer of the first Thai constitution in 1932 which changed Thailand from an absolute monarchyto a constitutional monarchy. In addition, he was twice Prime Minister, a wartime underground hero against the Japanese occupation of Thailand and the founder of Thammasat University.
However, Pridi was brought under suspicion of regicide in the death of King Ananda by his chief political rival, strongman military Prime Minister
Plaek Pibulsonggramand was forced to flee into exile with his chief aide-de-camp (and Ananda's), Vacharachai Chaisittiwet. Vacharachai's brother became the Thai translator of "The Devil's Discus" in an attempt to clear his name. Most Thais today have forgotten that Pridi Banomyong, the father of Thai democracy, died in exile.
Three trusted Royal servants were executed without warning and in secrecy for regicide in 1955, nine years after King Ananda's death, after many acquittals and subsequent prosecution appeals with little evidence, old or new, but which resulted in fresh convictions for all three in Thailand's highest court. The entire legal case appears to have been predicated on hearsay and the motivation political, purely to keep Pridi out of the picture. H.M. King Bhumibol, a young, untested monarch at the time, failed to exercise his Royal prerogative of pardon for the three prisoners, despite the many questionable facets to the case.
"The Revolutionary King" by
William Stevenson(London: Constable, 1999) was actually initiated by H.M. King Bhumibhol as a semi-official hagiography. King Bhumibhol had translated Stevenson's book, "A Man Called Intrepid", into Thai and reportedly admired Stevenson's work. In any case, Stevenson was granted unprecedented personal access to both the King himself and members of the Royal family.
However, when the published book appeared, not only was it riddled with simple inaccuracies but shocked many Thai readers by referring to His Majesty throughout the book by his childhood nickname, Lek. The book also presented a unique new theory of Japanese involvement in the death of King Ananda; it is unknown whether this theory originated with King Bhumibhol.
The book was unofficially banned in Thailand from the date of its publication. However, in 2005, reportedly through Royal intervention, the book could be ordered from bookstores in Thailand but no bookstore has been willing to stock it.
A more recent controversy has occurred over "
The King Never Smiles" (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2006) by a former Bangkok-based correspondent, Paul Handley, described by its publishers as an “interpretive biography” of King Bhumiphol. The book itself was banned in Thailand on its publication in July 2006 but websites relating to sales of the book were blocked from November 2005. As no advance reading copies or excerpts of the book were made available by its publishers, the book appears to have been banned as a precaution due to its title alone.
One example of censoring media of foreign origin is the case of "Bangkok Inside Out", a tourist guide, which, according to the Ministry of Culture, "taints the image of Thailand and its people," [ [http://www.thailandqa.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8337 Another book on Thailand banned - Paknam Web Thailand Forums ] ] most book censorship is of books in Thai published in Thailand. At the same time, most books since 1999 are banned “unofficially” which makes gathering data on censorship harder to do.
A good example of this modern variety of unofficial Thai censorship is the book "The Images of Pridi Banomyong and Thai Politics 1932-1983", written by
Morakot Jaewjindaas her Master's degree thesis in history at Srinakharinwirot University. Although Morakot's thesis was published in 1987, the criminal defamation case against her by Khunying(a Thai Royal decoration of recognition) Nongyao Chaiseree, former rector of Thammasat University, is only starting to be heard in court in 2007.
A 2002 issue of "
The Economist" was withheld because it made an “inappropriate” reference to the monarchy. [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,660559,00.html Thai police examine Economist article | Media |The Guardian ] ] " Fah Diew Kan", a political and social commentary magazine was prohibited and sellers charged with lèse majesté under the military junta-appointed government of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. [Sulak Sivaraksa, [http://sivaraksa.com/january-25th-letter-to-the-prime-minister January 25th Letter to the Prime Minister] , 31 January 2007] Defamation and lèse majesté laws are commonly used for censorship and political suppression in Thailand, as is a law prohibiting discussion or criticism of Thai court decisions. Ajarn Sulak, perhaps predictably, wrote a review of "The King Never Smiles" in English for his " Seeds of Peace" magazine published by the International Network of Engaged Buddhists in Bangkok . Self-censorshipis also a growing trend in Thailand. In February 2007, Chula Book Centre, bookstore of Chulalongkorn University, refused to carry the book "The September 19th Coup: A Coup for a Democratic Regime Under the Constitutional Monarchy", an anthology critical of Thailand's 2006 military coup d'état written in Thai by leading intellectuals and academics, including Nidhi Eoseewong, Somsak Jeamtheerasakul, Thongchai Winichakul and Ajarn Sulak. A few Thai language bookstores did sell the book, however, and reported brisk sales. Later in the month, Chula Book Centre and CU Books reneged on their agreement to both sell and distribute "A Coup for the Rich" primarily because some of the sources quoted were from "The King Never Smiles". The book was written by Dr. Giles Ji Ungpakorn, professor at Chula's Faculty of Political Science. On March 6, Thammasat University Bookstore followed suit in refusing to sell the book even though it has not been officially banned, although the university's rector overturned that decision and the book is now for sale at the university bookstore. The wide conclusion at a panel held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailandon the book was that it should be anticipated "A Coup for the Rich" would be confiscated and banned. Freedom Against Censorship Thailand(FACT) [http://facthai.wordpress.com/ FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand ] ] has initiated the Banned Books Project to scan as many books banned in Thailand as possible for free publication on the Web, beginning with books in several languages about the death of King Ananda.
Newspapers have also been censored for publishing news damaging to the monarchy. In 2006, Tongnoi Tongyai, the private secretary to Crown Prince Maha
Vajiralongkorn, was about to be appointed to the Board of Directors of Shin Corporationwhen his appointment was shot down by the palace. " Post Today", a Thai-language sister paper of the " Bangkok Post", had to pull thousands of copies off the printer after publishing a story quoting a leftist academic asking the press to investigate why Tongnoi was dismissed in such a strange manner. Vajiralongkorn called a group of reporters to the palace, where he reportedly asked them: “Do you have a problem with me?”. However, no one spoke.Asia Sentinel, [http://pages.citebite.com/b1u2r1x6o0eeg How Thailand’s Royals Manage to Own All the Good Stuff] , 2 March 2007]
Internet censorship is effected in Thailand by two methods. The
Royal Thai Policeblocks approximately 32 500 websites and the Communications Authority of Thailand a further unspecified number directly at Thailand's Internet gateway.
However, the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) [http://www.mict.go.th/] , blocks indirectly by informally “requesting” the blocking of websites by Thailand's 54 commercial and non-profit
Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Although ISPs are not legally required to accede to these “requests”, MICT Permanent Secretary Kraisorn Pornsutheehas written in 2006 that ISPs who fail to comply will be punitively sanctioned by government in the form of bandwidth restriction or even loss of operating license. This is a powerful compulsion to comply.
September 19, 2006, the Thai military staged a bloodless coup d'état against the government of elected Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The fifth official order signed by coup leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglinon September 20, the first day following the coup, was to enforce Web censorship and appointing Dr. Sitthichai Pokaiudom“The Official Censor of the Military Coup” as Minister of ICT.
Prior to the military coup d'état, in September 2006, 34,411
Internet web siteswere blocked. The top cited reasons are: Pornography56%, sale of sex equipment 13%, and threats to national security 11%, which includes criticisms of the king, government or military. [http://cyber.police.go.th/reporting/report/sum.php] This figure represents blocking done by all three government agencies.
In October 2006, MICT blocked 2475 websites by "request"; by
January 11, 2007, this number had risen to 13,435 websites, a jump of more than 500%. This brings the current total of websites blocked to more than 45,000. All websites are blocked in secret and the criteria for censorship has never been made public by government. However, the MICT blocklist must be made available to ISPs to block.
Although the great majority of censored sites are pornographic, the list is liberally salted with an attempt to block all anonymous proxy servers which serve to circumvent Web-blocking and Internet gambling sites. Pornography and gambling are specifically illegal in Thailand. Also illegal in Thailand is disrupting e-commerce through the use of or creation of viruses to attempt to gain online shopper credit card information or other online financial transaction information, such as updating of financial portfolios. A recent law was passed which is clamping down on this illegal thievery.
Websites are blocked by
Uniform Resource Locator(URL) and/or IP address. However, only about 20% of blocked sites are identified by IP; the remaining 80% are unable to be identified at a physical location. If these sites could be identified as being located in Thailand, legal action could be taken against their operators. Thus, lack of IP is a major oversight.
Most sites concerning the violent political situation in Thailand's Muslim South are blocked, specifically those in support of the
Patani United Liberation Organisation(PULO), a banned group which works for a separate Muslim state, including PULO's appeals to the United Nations for redress.
In addition, some web pages from
BBC One, BBC Two, CNN, Yahoo! News, Seattle (USA) " Post-Intelligencer" newspaper, and " The Age" (Melbourne, Australia) newspaper dealing with Thai political content are blocked. More recently, all international coverage of Thaksin-in-exile has been blocked, including interviews with the deposed PM.
Thailand blocked Google's video sharing site
YouTubefor several months in early 2007, but Reutersreported on 6 April 2007that the search company promised to help the Thai government block certain material on the site, making the rest legal to display in Thailand. [ [http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=technologyNews&storyID=2007-04-06T161548Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-293347-2.xml] Dead link|date=March 2008] YouTube is no longer banned in Thailand, and is in use by many on forums as embedded content and is currently being used in an online distance education program "Cyberissues" course through a university in Michigan in the United States. However, from May 2008 the government owned ISP TOT, which offers significant broadband services outside of city centres, has routinely disabled video streaming from youtube. A representative of the company confirmed in a telephone conversation that the had been instructed to do so from 'the government'.
Although the “interpretive biography” of Thailand's King Bhumibhol Adulyadej, "The King Never Smiles" by
Paul Handley(Yale University Press) was published in July 2006, websites concerning the book had been blocked as far back as November 2005. As no advance reading copies or excerpts were made available, these sites were censored based on the book's title alone. Sites with links to sales of the book were unblocked by late 2007, including Yale University Press, Amazon.com, Amazon UK and many others.
Several technologies are employed to censor the Internet such as caching, blacklisting domain name or IP address, or simply redirection to a government homepage. Blacklisting the website is beneficial for this kind of web censorship as the webmasters would be unaware that their websites are being blocked. This measure is said to be used to make unpleasant websites appear unavailable. [ [http://www.camblab.com/nugget/block/block_01.htm "Censoring the Internet in Thailand" by Jeffrey Race ] ]
Many censored web sites previously redirected the user to a site hosted by the MICT which states that the requested destination could not be displayed due to improper content. It should also be noted that censorship of the Internet in Thailand is currently for website access only. Unlike China's “Great Firewall”, which censors all Internet traffic including chat conversation via
Instant Messaging, Thai Internet users are still able to interact with other users without being censored. However, current policy is to use a system of transparent proxies so that the user receives system, server, TCP and browser error messages when trying to access blocked sites leading the user to believe that the failure is caused in the Internet itself.
Search engine giants,
Yahoo!, were approached to investigate the potential capability for blocking access to their cached web pages in Thailand, a common technique used to circumvent blocking.Fact|date=March 2007 The search engines were also asked about blocking by keyword search which is used effectively in China to censor the Internet. Wayback Engine, a project of Archive.org, currently caches 85 billion inactive web pages. Some of these are now being blocked by the MICT. With 100 million active web pages, 10% of which are thought to be pornographic, the effect of MICT's censorship will only be negligible.
Another, more disturbing, trend is the censorship of anti-coup websites such as
19 September Network against Coup d'Etat, which has been blocked six times, as of Febreuary 2007, with government refusing to acknowledge responsibility for the blocking.
Internet webboards and discussion forums such as
Midnight University, [ [http://www.midnightuniv.org/ midnight homepage ] ] Prachatai.com[ [http://www.prachatai.com/ www.prachatai.com เวบหนังสือพิมพ์ออนไลน์ ] ] and Pantip.comhave all been blocked so reasonable political discussion has been rendered impossible. Prachatai and Pantip have chosen to self-censor, closely monitoring each discussion, in order to remain unblocked. In addition, video sharing sites such as Camfrog have recently been blocked with the grounds given that people were "behaving indecently" on webcams; the block was later reversed when it was discovered that Camfrog provided a principal means of communication for the handicapped, elderly and shut-ins. The entire video upload website, YouTube, has suffered several blockings, including an April 4, 2007complete ban due to a video which was considered to be offensive to the monarchy; YouTube's parent company, Google, was reported in the Thai press to have agreed to assist the MICT in blocking individual videos rather than the entire website, but Google denies that it made any such agreement. The entire YouTubesite is no longer blocked to Internet users in Thailand.
Midnight University has filed a petition to the
National Human Rights Commission of Thailand[ [http://www.nhrc.or.th/ สำนักงานคณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ ] ] simultaneously with filing in the Administrative Court. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/10/09/headlines/headlines_30015748.php Embattled Midnight University website complains to NHRC ] ] As the Court and the Council of State can find no laws which permit Internet censorship, Midnight University has been granted a restraining order against further blocking, pending resolution of its legal case. This makes Midnight University the only legally-protected website in Thailand.
Interference in communication, including the Internet, was specifically prohibited by Section 37 of the 1997 “People's” Constitution and free speech protected by Section 39. [ [http://www.oefre.unibe.ch/law/icl/th00000_.html ICL - Thailand Constitution ] ] However, following the pattern of past coups, the military's first action was to scrap the Constitution and establish drafting a new one. Nevertheless, the MICT has commissioned the Law Faculty of Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University to find laws or loopholes which permit such censorship.
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand(FACT) filed a petition against all censorship before the National Human Rights Commissionon November 15, 2006. FACT's petition is still open for signatures and actively seeks all international support. [ [http://facthai.wordpress.com/sign/ Sign the Petition ลงชื่อสนับสนุน « FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand ] ] NHRChas no enforcement capability so, typically, any government body can simply refuse or fail to give evidence. This was the case with FACT's petition. However, on January 26, 2007, the MICT agreed to cooperate with this process.
The Official Information Act [ [http://www.oic.go.th/content_eng/act.htm Office of the Official Information Commission (O.I.C.) ] ] established in law by the 1997 Constitution was promulgated to enforce transparency in government. On
February 9, 2007FACT filed an official information request with the MICT. [ [http://facthai.wordpress.com/2007/02/11/info-request-letter-to-mict-eng/ FACT Information Request Letter to MICT « FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand ] ] Its 20 questions, signed by 257 individuals supported by 57 international civil liberties and human rights groups, [ [http://facthai.wordpress.com/2007/02/09/fact-wants-answers-from-mict/ FACT wants answers from MICT « FACT - Freedom Against Censorship Thailand ] ] must be answered with two exceptions.
MICT has refused to reply citing grounds of “national security” and “interference with law enforcement” rather than make its secret blocklist, the criteria used for censorship and the specific procedures it uses, public. FACT has filed a complaint requiring an investigation within 60 days (from
March 23, 2007) by the Official Information Commission [ [http://www.oic.go.th/content_eng/default_eng.asp Office of the Official Information Commission (O.I.C.) ] ] under the Prime Minister's Office. If this, too, fails, a legal case seeking a restraining order against further censorship will be initiated.
Software applications for circumventing web-blocking are readily available.
Tor, Torpark, Privoxy, Vidalia, Proxify, Six-Four, Ultrasurf, Freenet, phproxycircumvention software for all operating systems, as well as Mozilla Firefoxbrowser plugins such as [http://ghostfox.mozdev.org Ghostfox] and EZtorare available for free download from the Internet and are made available on disk by the Freedom Against Censorship Thailand. The Minister of Information Communications and Technology has said in an interview in the Bangkok Postthat he has not blocked these methods because "using proxies to access illegal sites are illegal, whereas using proxies to access legal sites is legal."
Although freedom of speech was guaranteed by the 1997 Constitution, it was limited by several laws. The King may not be spoken ill of and lèse majesté laws are in force. In 1986, Deputy Interior Minister
Veera Musikapongwas convicted, imprisoned, and banned from politics for a campaign speech in which he noted that if he were born the Crown Prince, he “would be drinking whisky instead of standing here getting pains in my knees.” [ [http://188.8.131.52/time/archive/preview/0,10987,962326,00.html TIME Archive ] ]
The judgement of Thai courts may not be criticized. After a controversial ruling in July 2006 in which the Criminal Court jailed three Election Commissioners, the court worked with the police to identify 16 individuals who were captured on TV news footage criticizing the judgement. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/07/29/headlines/headlines_30009901.php Shortlist for EC candidates submitted on Aug 10 ] ] The Court later found all the individuals guilty and gave jail terms to 4 of them. The maximum jail sentence for the offense is seven years. [ [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/08/04/headlines/headlines_30010341.php EC trio's supporters jailed ] ]
Furthermore, the use of defamation laws was frequently used to silence dissidents during the Thaksin administration, often by the Prime Minister himself. This led to a backlog in the courts of defamation suits and countersuits. The considerable legal and financial resources exercised by the Thai government and its Prime Minister were hard to beat.
In television broadcasts, scenes displaying nudity, consumption of alcohol, smoking, drug usage and weapons pointed at human beings are commonly censored by blurring out respective areas. Like all media, criticism of the King is not allowed.
After the military coup of September 2006, the junta sent tanks and troops to secure all television stations. Junta leaders demanded the censorship of news reports and opinion polls that might be negative to the military.The Nation [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/09/20/headlines/headlines_30014177.php] , Activists, former MP arrested after staging protest] Thai television broadcasters did not air footage of demonstrations against the coup. [ [http://en.wikinews.org/wiki/First_successful_anti-coup_protest_in_Thailand First successful anti-coup protest in Thailand] ]
Local cable broadcasts of
CNN, BBC, CNBC, NHK, and several other foreign news channels were censored, with any footage involving former Premier Thaksin blacked out. [Associated Press, [http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1104AP_Thailand_Media.html Thai coup leaders criticize media] , 29 September 2006]
In November, an interview with
Nuamthong Phaiwan, a taxi driver who drove his taxi into a tank to protest the coup was broadcast by iTV. The broadcast came to an abrupt end after the director of Army-owned Channel 5 gave a warning telephone call. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/02/headlines/headlines_30017813.php Taxi driver 'sacrificed himself for democracy'] , 2 November 2006] Although the station was already occupied by the military, an additional 20 soldiers were dispatched to the station. The junta also sent a letter to the six public TV channels summoning their news editors for instruction on "constructive reporting for peace of the nation." [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/03/national/national_30017926.php iTV rapped for report on driver's final words] , 3 November 2006]
The nine members of Board of Directors of
MCOT, a privatised state-owned media company, resigned on 26 Septemberwith effect as of 27 Septemberin order to take responsibility for allowing Thaksin Shinwatrato shortly address the nation on MCOT-controlled Modernine TV (Channel 9). [The " Bangkok Post", [http://bangkokpost.net/News/27Sep2006_news04.php MCOT board resigns 'for Thaksin broadcast'] , 27 September 2006] Seven months after the coup, the " Bangkok Post" reported that military censorship of broadcast media was tighter than at any time in the past 15 years. [" Bangkok Post", [http://pages.citebite.com/h1l5y4t1x1xed Virtue never can be bought] , 16 April 2007]
Radio stations in Thailand must be government licensed and have traditionally been operated primarily by the Government and military. [http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/democracy/1994_hrp_report/94hrp_report_eap/thailand.html] Ownership of radio outlets by government, military, and quasi-government entities have often undermined freedom of the media. [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2003/27790.htm Thailand ] ]
In May 1993, the military shut down an army-owned radio station leased to a private news group for three days after the station ran a commentary critical of the armed forces. [http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/democracy/1994_hrp_report/94hrp_report_eap/Thailand.html] In another incident in February 1993, government-run media attempted to protect a prominent Buddhist monk accused of sexual misconduct by prohibiting interviews with another well-known Buddhist on his views about the allegations and declined to air a video documenting the monk's overseas travels.Fact|date=February 2007
More recently, in March 2003 the
Independent News Network(INN) radio broadcast was temporarily canceled after the network aired a Cabinet member's criticisms of the government. In response to public protests, the Government restored the broadcast and claimed that INN's failure to renew their broadcast license was the reason for the temporary closure. Community radiostations – mostly unlicensed – have seen dramatic growth during the Thaksin-government. [http://www.bangkokpost.com/News/01Jun2005_news10.php] [http://nationmultimedia.com/2005/06/01/national/index.php?news=national_17552513.html] There have been fears that the medium might be censored. In 2008, there are nearly 4,000 community radio stations operating in Thailand, mostly unlicensed. Community radio stations have been accused of causing interference with television, air traffic radio and other licensed radio stations. However, limited crackdowns on selected community radio stations have caused critics to accuse the government of political interference. The current Constitution of 2007 provides in Article 47 that "community" is guaranteed the right to offer "community broadcast". The new Broadcasting Act of 2008 provides that the broadcasting regulator is authorized to issue "community broadcast" license for station which offer non-commercial service to local audience. The Broadcasting Act of 2008 prohibits the community broadcaster from engaging in commercial activities or undertake any commercial undertaking. As of July 2008, no community broadcast license has been sought or issued.
The censorship Board continues to operate on the 1930 Film Act, where theater owners and broadcasters must submit films that they plan to show to the Film Censorship Board for review. The Board is composed of officials representing the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of University Affairs, the military, the Department of Religious Affairs, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The board may ban films if its requirements that portions of the film be removed are not met. Reasons for censoring films include violating moral and cultural norms and disturbing the public order and national security. Theater owners and broadcasters frequently censor films themselves before submitfting them to the board.
The Censorship Board initially banned the film
Schindler's Listbecause of a nude scene. However, after a furor in the press, the Board reversed its decision. [http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/ERC/democracy/1994_hrp_report/94hrp_report_eap/Thailand.html 1994 Human Rights Report: THAILAND ] ] According to the office of the Film Censorship Board, of the 230 films submitted for review in 2002, 1 was banned. Out of the 282 films submitted for review in 2003, 4 were banned - 3 South Korean and 1 American. Officers at the censorship board cited sexual situations and nudity as the main reasons for banning the four films. [ [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2004/41661.htm Thailand ] ]
All versions of the story of
Anna Leonowensand King Mongkut(Rama IV) have been banned in Thailand, including the 1956 musical The King and I. More recently, the 1999 movie Anna and the Kingwas also banned for "several scenes that distort history and insult the King", [ [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/apr2000/thai-a03.shtml Why are the Thai authorities so sensitive about Anna and the King? ] ] despite the fact that a number of changes were made to the script. Censorship Board member Thepmontri Limpayomcastigated the film, saying: “The filmmakers have made King Mongkut look like a cowboy who rides on the back of an elephant as if he is in a cowboy movie. In one scene Chow Yun-fat pushes the king's crown and his portrait down to the floor—that's totally unacceptable.” Another board member added: “If we cut all the scenes which we consider mock the monarchy it would only run for about 20 minutes.”
More recently, Thai
Christiangroups protested the film The Da Vinci Code and called for it to be banned. On May 16, 2006, the Thai Censorship Committee issued a ruling that the film would be shown, but that the last 10 minutes would be cut. Also, some Thai subtitles were to be edited to change their meaning and passages from the Biblewould also be quoted at the beginning and end of the film. However, the following day, Sony Pictures appealed the ruling, saying it would pull the film if the decision to cut it was not reversed. The censorship panel then voted 6-5 that the film could be shown uncut, but that a disclaimer would precede and follow the film, saying it was a work of fiction. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/05/17/headlines/headlines_30004223.php "The Da Vinci Code" can be shown uncut ] ] . [ [http://www.manager.co.th/IHT/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000064856 IHT ThaiDay - Manager Online ] ]
After controversy surrounded
Apichatpong Weerasethakul's film " Syndromes and a Century", the Free Thai Cinema Movement started to gain momentum in late April 2007. As a reaction to an unfavourable trip to the Censorship Board, which would not approve release in Thailand without specific cuts to be administered by the board, Apichatpong decided to cancel local release of the film. The censors, fearing that Apichatpong might show his film anyway, refused to return his print. These actions sparked a far-reaching discussion and a petition signed by artists and scholars alike and submitted to the legislative assembly of the Thai government.
As of 2007, the National Legislative Assembly was considering a proposed film ratings system, which is viewed by the film industry as even more restrictive, because in addition to a motion picture ratings system, the Board of Censors would remain in place, and would retain the power to cut or ban films. [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1670261,00.html Will Reforms Make Censorship Worse?] , Simon Montlake, "Time",
October 11, 2007, retrieved 2007-10-12]
Censorship at foreign creators
All the foreign companies have to apply for shooting permission to
Film Board of Thailand. [ [http://www.mfa.go.th/web/832.php Why Film in Thailand] , Fast approval for filming and efficient government procedures, Ministory of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand retrieved 2008-9-28] Some topics will be rejected [http://www.bangkokpost.com/topstories/topstories.php?id=130800 Too 'Dark' to see] Bangkok Post, Kong Rithdee, 2008-9-20 retrieved 2008-9-28] by the Film Board of Thailand if the script is judged inappropreate. The Film Board of Thailand keeps checking if the films they approved follow the film script, the plot and details as agreed to by the Film Board. [ [http://www.mfa.go.th/web/833.php Rules and Regulations] , Important Notes:, Ministroy of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Thailand]
Self-censorshiphas a long tradition in Thailand. It is used mostly out of fears of charges of lèse majesté.
Former Prime Minister
Thaksin Shinawatrahas been repeatedly accused of using his political and economic power to silence dissenting voices and curbing freedom of speech based on the fact that he has direct authority over the state-owned TV stations while his family controls the other broadcast TV channels. [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=10225 Reporters sans frontières - Thailand - 2004 Annual Report ] ] However, responding to critics, he sold all of his family's interests in the broadcast media in 2006.
The allegations range from the frequent use of
libelsuits against critics to coercioninto self-censorship. Self-censorship has been used as an excuse for the central government or administrative branch to interfere in people's communication sphere. Noted however, that all the radio and television stations in Thailand belong to government or government agencies.
In 2003, the
Thai Journalists Association(TJA) rapped the spread of self-censorship as well as the "sophisticated and subversive means" used by the authorities to control the media, fearing it could turn into propaganda mouthpieces of the Thaksin government. On the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day 2006, the TJA’s labeled the situation of press freedom in Thailand as an “era of fear and hatred” [http://www.tja.or.th/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=398]
The government of
Thaksin Shinawatrahas filed numerous libel suits against government critics, in what the International Federation of Journalists(IFJ) called “Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s continued use of criminal defamation charges to silence media criticism of his government” [http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?index=4006&Language=EN] , while Brad Adams, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, noted that “it’s impossible to distinguish a libel suit from an attempt to silence the prime minister’s critics. Thailand’s once-vigorous free press is being slowly squeezed to death.” [ [http://hrw.org/english/docs/2004/09/01/thaila9285.htm Thailand: Libel Suit Deepens Assault on the Press (Human Rights Watch, 1-9-2004) ] ]
Prominent libel suits filed by Thaksin in this context include:
The suit by
Shin Corporation(at the time owned by Thaksin's family) against Supinya Klangnarong, Secretary General of the Campaign for Popular Media Reform. [ [http://www.wacc.org.uk/wacc/regional_associations/asia/asian_articles/free_speech_in_thailand_wacc_scholar_takes_on_prime_minister_and_media_giant_in_freedom_of_speech_case Free Speech in Thailand: WACC Scholar Takes on Prime Minister and Media Giant in Freedom of Speech Case - World Association for Christian Communication ] ] In an article, published in July 2003 in the Thai Post, Supinya had indicated the rise in the Shin Corporation’s profits since Thaksin's Thai Rak Thaiparty had gained power in 2001 (approximately $US 980mn), might be a result of benefits to Shin Corp from the government's policies, which would amount to a conflict of interest. The charges were dropped in March 2006 [ [http://www.manager.co.th/IHT/ViewNews.aspx?NewsID=9490000035731 IHT ThaiDay - Manager Online ] ] after Supinya received considerable Thai and international support and her case became a cause celebre for free speech and media freedom. Thus far, has not launched a countersuit for damages against the embattled PM-in-exile.
April 4, 2006, People's Alliance for Democracy(PAD) leader and fierce Thaksin critic Sondhi Limthongkulwas sued by Thaksin Shinatwatrafor allegedly slandered him during an anti-Thaksin rally. [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/article-southeastasia.asp?parentid=42112 AsiaMedia :: THAILAND: Thaksin, Plodprasop file lese majeste suits against Sondhi ] ] In total, Sondhi has around 40 complaints lodged against him. [ [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=16956 Reporters sans frontières - Thailand ] ]
Further ways of censorship
Thai governments have been accused of pressuring the press to limit damaging coverage. In
6 August 2005, the " Bangkok Post" published a front page story on cracks in Suvarnabhumi Airport's western runway. Citing unnamed sources, the article that aviation experts recommended reconstruction to repair large cracks in the runway. A newspaper internal investigation found that while there were small cracks on the shoulders of the runway, its source wrongly claimed experts believed the runway needed reconstruction. The anonymous source, who claimed to be a businessman whose brother was close to some members of the Prime Minister's Thai Rak Thaiparty, refused to confirm his comments. Chief reporter Sermsuk Kasitipraditand news editor Chadin Thepaval were found to have acted negligently in publishing the story and were fired. Some critics in the newspaper claimed that the source was pressured by the government not to confirm the details of the story. [The Nation, [http://nationmultimedia.com/2007/01/28/national/national_30025294.php Scoop journalist vindicated] , 28 January 2007]
Also in August 2005,
Rungruang Preechakul, editor of Siam RathWeekly News magazine, quit after covering alleged government mishandling of the bird flu crisis. [ [http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/02/29/1077989434975.html Thai media feel Thaksin's displeasure - World - www.smh.com.au ] ] [ [http://www.asiamedia.ucla.edu/print.asp?parentid=8230 AsiaMedia :: Story, Print Version ] ]
March 10 2006the then governor of Nakhonratchasima province, Mr. Pongpayome Wasaputi, during a regular scheduled press conference with the local media, asked Frank G Anderson, founder of the Korat Post newspaper, to "kindly refrain from carrying any more headlines regarding events at Watpa Salawan, because it is like irritating an old sore." The governor was referring to coverage of allegations of sexual impropriety against the temple's abbot Luang Pho Pherm, the latter whom had a considerable official following.
It was rumored that on
1 February 2006, a business news commentary program “Business Focus” was taken off the air from the FM 101 radio station because it devoted time discussing the Shinawatra family’s controversial multi-million dollar share deal with Singapore’s Temasek Holdings. [ [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/02/03/national/national_20000222.php Sudathip’s radio show axed ] ]
In November 2006, the military junta cancelled the most popular program on MCOT's Modernine TV,
Khui Khui Khao. The anti-Thaksin movement, which had recently seized power in a military coup, claimed the program's host, prominent Thai political commentator Sorrayuth Suthassanachinda, was a supporter of the overthrown premier. [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/11/21/politics/politics_30019535.php Weera calls for probe into MCOT and TV host] , 21 November 2006] [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2006/12/09/business/business_30021084.php Exit of popular shows to hurt MCOT] , 9 December 2006]
In February 2007, Thai authorities, under a newly elected alleged "Thaksin nominee" government, cancelled a popular FM radio program hosted by Fatima Broadcasting because the show's host was a regular critic of the former premier. While officials claim they did not pressure the station's owner, the show's host has published an account indicating otherwise.
2006 Coup d'état
2006 Thailand coup d'étatthat took place on 19 September 2006, further restrictions have been put on the Thai media. The Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchydemanded the cooperation of mass media [The Nation, [http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30014237] ARC summons media bosses to toughen controls] and later asked the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to control the distribution of all information media deemed harmful to the provisional military council. [The Bangkok Post, Council wants clamps on information, 21 September 2006]
15 November 2006, a group called “ Freedom Against Censorship Thailand” [ Freedom Against Censorship Thailand[http://facthai.wordpress.com/] Group website and the petition.] filed a petition to the Thai Human Rights Commissionasking for an end to online censorship. [Yahoo! News/AFP, [http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20061115/tc_afp/thailandmediainternet_061115171806] Thai group petitions for end to Internet censorship, Wed November 15, 12:18 p.m. ET]
Cinema of Thailand
Communications in Thailand
List of Thailand-related topics
Media in Thailand
* [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61628.htm US State Department Thailand Country Report on Human Rights Practices] , released
8 March 2006
* [http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=17364&Valider=OK Reporters Without Borders] - Thailand Annual report 2006
* [http://www.tja.or.th/ Thai Journalists Association]
* [http://www.ifj.org/default.asp?issue=mainresult&Language=EN&cntr=THA International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)]
* [http://www.seapabkk.org/ Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)]
* [http://www.cpj.org/regions_06/asia_06/asia_06.html#thai Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)] - Thailand archive 2006
* [http://2bangkok.com/blocked.shtml Articles on internet censorship in Thailand]
* [http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/163/ Freedom of expression in Thailand] - IFEX
* [http://www.article19.org/pdfs/publications/thailand-baseline-study.pdf Freedom of expression and the Media in Thailand] , December 2005
Freedom Against Censorship Thailand(FACT)] - an active group on Internet censorship issues in Thailand
* [http://2bangkok.com/blocked.shtml Website censorship in Thailand] - a detailed list of blocked websites in Thailand
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