A group of Thai media organisations has issued an open letter to the military rulers demanding protection for the media in the interim Constitution that will take effect on 3 October 2006.
The group consists of the Press Council of Thailand, the Confederation of Thai Journalists, the Thai Journalists Association and the Thai Broadcast Journalists Associations.
On 26 September 2006, the journalists called upon the ruling, military-established Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy to demonstrate their sincerity and commitment to democratic reforms by including a principle guaranteeing the right to free expression of the press and the people in the interim Constitution. They said this right must be no less than that provided for under the 1997 Constitution that was abolished following the peaceful coup against then caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on 19 September.
The four organisations also condemned and denied any links with media that are being manipulated by politicians or have violated journalism ethics. They urged caution on the Council’s part from being taken in by the machinations of certain groups who may be exploiting the situation in order to damage the reputation of the media in general.
TJA and TBJA had issued a statement on 24 September, offering “suggestions and demands for the Council, with the intention of helping getting the nation get back to a productive, transparent and united political system.”
They demanded that the Council honour its pledge and transfer power back to the people “as soon as possible.”
Further, they maintained that the process of creating Thailand’s new Constitution must be open to public participation and that due respect be given to the will and spirit of the 1997 “People’s Constitution.”
There have been pockets of sporadic protests led by human rights activists and university students and academics against the military takeover. However, with all major broadcast stations under the military’s ownership and control, and the newspapers largely supportive of the interim military rule, there has been little room for alternative viewpoints except on the Internet. The Council has closed down more than 300 out of some 3,000 community radio stations to prevent Thaksin supporters from mobilising.
Meanwhile, the board of the company behind the television channel that aired Thaksin’s last-minute attempt to announce a state of emergency shortly before the coup have resigned on 27 September.
According to local reports, the board of the Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand and its director-general Mingkwan Saengsuwan are taking responsibility for allowing Thaksin to appear on its Modernine TV, or Channel 9. Earlier, Mingkwan was detained for questioning over this matter.
No other channel broadcast Thaksin’s final words as the caretaker prime minister of Thailand.