Thai leaders stand pat on martial law as media, civil rights advocates grow restless

Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont says there is a need to keep martial law in place in Thailand, three weeks after the military coup that toppled the government of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Surayud’s defense minister, Boonrawd Somtas, had suggested that martial law could be lifted in a few months, but the current prime minister refuted any such optimistic plans, calling Somtas’ comment a mere reflection of his “personal opinion”.

There are signs, however, that some members of Thai civil society are growing anxious with the lack of a timframe for ending martial law. The Thai Broadcast Journalists Association says the broadcasting industry and media in general are intimidated enough to “feel suffocated” and to practice widespread self-censorship. The webmaster of www.19sep.org — shut down after last month’s coup — criticised the attitude of the coup leaders and the new administration as paternalistic. And the Center for Popular Media Reform organized an illegal assembly to lament the “death” of Thailand’s 1997 Constitution.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on October 12 will hold a panel discussion entitled, “Voices against the Coup: All is not well in the Land of Smiles”, featuring some of the staunchest and most vocal critics of the Thai coup and its adverse impact on the Thai media environment.

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