Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism

After coup, Thailand's military targets media

28 May 2014

After Thailand’s military arrested the prime minister and members of her cabinet in a coup, journalists now find themselves among those targeted by the country’s army.

The military junta, calling itself the National Council for Peace and Order, issued statements May 25 summoning more than 260 politicians, activists and journalists to surrender themselves to the military, the Associated Press reported.

Pravit Rojanaphruk, a columnists for the daily paper The Nation, and Watchara Malikaew, reporter for the Phuket Gazette, were among those ordered to appear. Pravit surrendered himself to the military in Bangkok the day of the summons, according to Bangkok Post. Watchara was arrested by soldiers at his home in Phuket

Thailand’s military overthrew Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s elected government May 22, citing the political paralysis caused by months of unrest and demonstrations by those opposed to Shinawatra and her exiled brother Thaksin, a former prime minister who remains influential. Yingluck and Suthep Thaugsuban, the leader of protests against her, were released days after they were detained.

Thonapol Eawaskul, editor of controversial political magazine Fa Diew Kan (Same Sky), is also being detained. Thonapol was arrested Friday after participating in an anti-coup demonstration, according to Deutsche Presse-Agentur. The protest violated a military edict prohibiting groups larger than five from gathering for political purposes.

Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, Thailand’s de facto leader, has defended the detentions as legal and temporary. Prayauth, who has dissolved the country’s senate, issued a statement saying that martial law is necessary to insure peace and end a year and a half of violent protests.

In addition, eight soldiers reportedly burst into the Foreign Correspondent’s Club in Bangkok May 27 to arrest former education minister Chantron Chaisang. Chantron had denounced the coup as a “disaster,” a statement which landed him on the government’s summons list, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Thai Information Communications Technology Ministry blocked Facebook May 28 in what has been criticized as an attack on citizen journalism and anti-coup organization efforts. Although the military claimed the site’s blockage was the result of a glitch, a senior official with ICT told Reuters the block was an intentional attack on the spread of anti-military information.

Reporters Without Borders, the Foreign Correspondent’s Club and the Southeast Asia Press Association are among the groups who have condemned the Thai military’s attacks on press freedom.

“Military rule has thrown Thailand’s rights situation into a free fall,” said Brad Adams, Asia Director for Human Rights Watch, in a statement. “The army is using draconian martial law powers to detain politicians, activists, and journalists, to censor media, and to ban all public gatherings. This rolling crackdown needs to come to an end immediately.”

Monitoring press freedom and international affairs from Mid-Missouri Public Radio and the Missouri School of Journalism.
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