Thai­land ‘Red Shirt’ leader rails against pro-democ­racy TV ban threat

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

The leader of Thai­land’s ‘Red Shirt’ move­ment hit out Tues­day at plans to take his pro-democ­racy tele­vi­sion net­work off the air, in the lat­est strike against free­dom of ex­pres­sion in the mil­i­tary-ruled king­dom.

The Na­tional Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Com­mis­sion (NTC), Thai­land’s me­dia reg­u­la­tor, has said it plans to sus­pend the broad­cast­ing li­cense for Peace TV, which fea­tures a daily pro­gram by Jatu­porn Prompan, chair­man of the Red Shirts, whose votes helped to elect the top­pled ad­min­is­tra­tion of Yingluck Shi­nawa­tra.

Reg­u­la­tors ac­cuse Peace TV of fail­ing to abide by an agree­ment with junta of­fi­cials that it stay clear of pol­i­tics.

On Mon­day, NTC com­mis­sioner Na­tee Sukon­rat said Peace TV would be banned be­cause the net­work is “still air­ing con­tent that leads to con­flicts.”

The move comes as the Red Shirt move­ment pre­pares to mark a 2010 mil­i­tary crack­down on protests that left more than 90 dead, the ma­jor­ity demon­stra­tors.

Pro- democ­racy cam­paign­ers are also likely to try to mark the an­niver­sary of last year’s coup on May 22.

Speak­ing on the chan­nel, Jatu­porn de­nied caus­ing di­vi­sions and threat­ened to take the me­dia reg­u­la­tors to court if his show was un­plugged.

“There was no mes­sage caus­ing di­vi­sion in the en­tire pro­gram. I keep telling peo­ple to be pa­tient and not to leave this theater un­til the movie has ended,” he said.

“I will fight un­til the end ... At the end of the day it’s dif­fi­cult to be good boy in this coun­try,” he added.

The coun­try’s sharply po­lar­ized po­lit­i­cal chan­nels were one of the first ca­su­al­ties of the cen­sor­ship im­posed fol­low­ing the dec­la­ra­tion of mar­tial law and the coup last May.

But a ban on them was lifted around three months later on the con­di­tion they stayed away from con­tro­ver­sial is­sues or crit­i­ciz­ing the mil­i­tary regime.

Since the coup last May, lead­ers of the Red Shirts, of­fi­cially known as the United Front for Democ­racy against Dic­ta­tor­ship (UDD), have ei­ther re­nounced the cause, fled into self-ex­ile or — like Jatu­porn — agreed to aban­don pol­i­tics.

Jatu­porn’s once rab­ble-rous­ing tele­vi­sion rhetoric was sta­ple view­ing in the Red heart­lands of north­ern Thai­land where Yingluck — and her bil­lion­aire brother Thaksin Shi­nawa­tra — are adored for their pro-poor poli­cies.

Un­der junta rules Peace TV had toned-down its tirades against the Bangkok-based elite but in re­cent months Jatu­porn has spo­ken more di­rectly against the rul­ing regime.

In early April the net­work was taken off the air for seven days fol­low­ing a spat with the mil­i­tary over its con­tent.

Thai­land has been riven by bit­ter po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions since 2006, when Thaksin’s gov­ern­ment was ousted in an ear­lier mil­i­tary coup, backed by the Bangkok-based roy­al­ist estab­lish­ment.

They de­spise the Shi­nawa­tras — whose par­ties have won ev­ery elec­tion since 2001 — ac­cus­ing them of poi­son­ing pol­i­tics with pop­ulism, cor­rup­tion and crony­ism.

“Yel­low Shirt” or anti-Thaksin chan­nels were also taken off air af­ter the coup with sev­eral re­brand­ing them­selves once the ban was lifted.

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