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Thai Government Moves To Mute Media Opponents

Thailand’s government steps up efforts to stifle political debate in the aftermath of the recent bloody crackdown on Red Shirt protests in Bangkok

Thai authorities are increasing efforts to stiffle opposition rhetoric, targeting domestic and international media it considers biased. Ubonrat Siriyuvasak, a media reform activist and Professor of Communications at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, outlines the current media environment in Thailand.

Click here to listen to Amanda Scott's interview with Professor Ubonrat

The government has moved against media sympathetic to anti-government protesters.

Professor Ubanrat: More community radio are being shut down, especially the Red ones in key northeastern provinces. They’re being raided; their offices and their transmitters are being taken away. The local military is telling some of the operators to tone down their rhetoric or face being shut down. While the Internet is open and somehow you can find a way around it, government attempts to blocks various Web sites has continued, though that effort has been going on for months.

Censorship of domestic media and intimidation of international media exists.

Professor Ubanrat: The government will not let up. The latest effort is to counter CNN reports on the recent unrest, by summoning support from local media against foreign media reporting. In a way, Thai media are sympathetic to the government’s war against the Red Shirts, in that they are reporting on the consequences of the riots, the arson attacks…from those who have been made unemployed or suffered financial losses in the fires. In contrast, the foreign media are showing photographs of Thai troops are killing their own citizens. So it’s a very different perspective.

Thailand’s mainstream media have failed to cover opposition’s concerns.

Professor Ubanrat: So far the root cause of the protest hasn’t really been debated, publicized or thought out loud in the mainstream media. I guess they haven’t really come to grips with the real issues – the call for equality and to return to the ballot box. In a sense the protesters were asking for their political rights -- they felt they had been disenfranchised. And I think the media should have room for this debate whichever side you represent. Instead, the mainstream media have participated in a sort of political slandering on the protestors.

Facebook and other social networking sites have become popular tools in Thailand for amplifying social divisions between the Red Shirts and government supporters.

Professor Ubonrat: It’s quite divisive. The pro-government groups are trying to sort of give their view and cheer up the government. The protestors have sort of less access to the Facebook, so it’s a little bit unequal in that sense.

Professor Ubonrat was interviewed by VOA Staff Writer Amanda Scott