Thai junta chief threat­ens to shut me­dia

The China Post - - SPORTS -

Thai­land's junta chief Fri­day vowed to shut down crit­i­cal me­dia out­lets as he faced a grow­ing in­ter­na­tional back­lash against his de­ci­sion to re­place mar­tial law with new pow­ers re­tain­ing his ab­so­lute author­ity.

Be­moan­ing crit­ics of his regime, Prime Min­is­ter Prayut ChanOcha or­dered the me­dia to toe the regime's line or face con­se­quences.

"I will shut them down only when they don't say good things. I have not yet shut down any pub­li­ca­tions but please write in a good way. If it is not good, then I will need to do that," a stern-faced Prayut told re­porters dur­ing a visit to a mil­i­tary col­lege in Bangkok.

Prayut of­fi­cially lifted mar­tial law on Wed­nes­day, 10 months af­ter seiz­ing power in a May coup.

But the con­tro­ver­sial law was re­placed with a new ex­ec­u­tive or­der re­tain­ing sweep­ing pow­ers for him and the mil­i­tary.

Among the new rules in the or­der is a pro­vi­sion al­low­ing mil­i­tary of­fi­cers to stop the pub­li­ca­tion or pre­sen­ta­tion of any news they deem to be "caus­ing fear or dis­torted in­for­ma­tion."

While me­dia free­doms have been curbed since the coup, four bod­ies rep­re­sent­ing lo­cal Thai me­dia con­demned the new press law say­ing the mea­sures "in­ter­fere with the rights and free­dom of peo­ple and me­dia much more than mar­tial law did."

The or­der that re­placed mar­tial law was passed un­der Sec­tion 44 of the junta-writ­ten in­terim con­sti­tu­tion, a con­tro­ver­sial pro­vi­sion hand­ing Prayut power to make any ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sion in the name of na­tional se­cu­rity.

It also up­holds a ban on po­lit­i­cal gath­er­ings of more than five peo­ple, while the mil­i­tary re­tains the right to ar­rest, de­tain and pros­e­cute peo­ple for na­tional se­cu­rity crimes or those who fall foul of the coun­try's strict royal defama­tion laws.

Only one area of the new or­der ap­peared to soften the mil­i­tary's power. Civil­ians will still be tried in mil­i­tary courts for na­tional se­cu­rity and lese ma­jeste crimes, but they can now ap­peal to higher tri­bunals.

Un­der mar­tial law there was no right of ap­peal to con­vic­tions in mil­i­tary courts.

Re­plac­ing mar­tial law has re­ceived short shrift both in­side Thai­land and from Bangkok's West­ern al­lies, who have been urg­ing Prayut to re­turn the king­dom to civil­ian democ­racy.

The Euro­pean Union be­came the lat­est ally to crit­i­cize the new pow­ers late Thurs­day say­ing they would not bring Thai­land "closer to demo­cratic and accountable gov­ern­ment."

Key ally Wash­ing­ton had pre­vi­ously crit­i­cized the re­place­ment of mar­tial law while the U.N.'s hu­man rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hus­sein de­scribed the new pow­ers as "even more dra­co­nian."


Thai po­lice­men lis­ten to Prime Min­is­ter Prayuth Chan-ocha de­liv­er­ing a speech at Gov­ern­ment House in Bangkok, Thai­land, Fri­day, April 3.

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