Nation Radio Programmes Taken Off Air

The government has ordered the Nation Multimedia Group to cease its radio programmes starting today.

Sources said Gen Akkaradej Sasiprapa, adviser to Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, directed the armed forces to scrap Nation programming on the 90.5MHz station.

Smart Bomb, which holds the concession for the radio frequency, was also told to cancel Nation’s radio programmes.

The Mass Communications Organisation of Thailand has also notified cable television operator UBC to enforce the current prohibition on television ads, particularly for programmes run on channel UBC 8, or Nation TV.

Sources said the order stemmed from a programme broadcast last week featuring an interview with Sqn-Ldr Prasong Soonsiri, a leading critic of the Thaksin Shinawatra government.

The programme, run both on 90.5MHz and UBC 8, featured an interview by Nation journalists Sorayuth Suthassa-nachinda and Kanok Ratwongsakul.

In the interview, Sqn-Ldr Prasong blasted the prime minister’s handling of a blow-up relating to an article run by the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine earlier in the year as damaging for the country’s international reputation.

While the programme was not aired on UBC 8 due to a “technical problem”, the interview was carried on 90.5MHz.

Smart Bomb executives confirmed they had been directed to remove Nation programmes from the radio channel, affecting around 6-7 hours of daily programming.

“We’ve had to scramble to see what we can do to fill the airtime, and have asked our other producers to extend their own programmes to compensate,” one senior executive said.

Nation executives expressed confusion about the government clampdown, saying they were trying to seek clarification from authorities about the situation.

“We’re trying to clarify what is going on, and to find out what the government thinks that we did wrong,” one senior Nation executive said.

“The radio station mostly runs economic news programmes. Only in the morning do we have a programme linked with Nation TV,” said the executive.

5 March 2002
Source: Bangkok Post

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`Review’ Apologises for Controversy
Correspondents will not be Replaced

The Far Eastern Economic Review yesterday made a formal apology for the “misunderstanding and controversy” involving Thailand’s monarchy.

But it said its two Bangkok-based correspondents would not be replaced even if they are deported.

The apology came as the magazine’s sister publication, The Asian Wall Street Journal, criticised the Thaksin government’s handling of the matter in its editorial.

David Lyman, representative of the Hong Kong-based weekly magazine, delivered the letter of apology to Parliament President Uthai Pimchaichon, following an appeal lodged with the Immigration Bureau for a renewed visa for Shawn Crispin and Rodney Tasker.

Parliament secretary general Sirilak Panbamrungkit received the magazine’s letter of apology on behalf of Mr Uthai and forwarded it to the Immigration Bureau’s committee in charge of considering visas for the correspondents.

“As Editor of the Far Eastern Economic Review, I am writing to you to convey my sincere regret for the misunderstanding and controversy that has been generated by an article published in our issue of January 10, 2002,” magazine editor Michael Vatikiotis wrote in the letter.

“The Far Eastern Economic Review is fully cognizant and sensitive to the protocol surrounding reporting of the royal institution, which is revered by all Thai people and is also held in the highest esteem by the Far Eastern Economic Review, and indeed throughout the world.

“It was never the intention of the Far Eastern Economic Review to write or generate any adverse commentary concerning Thailand’s highest institution and if our issue of January 10 has been so interpreted, we most sincerely apologize for it.

“We will continue to be vigilant in the future so that we do not cause offense to Thai sensibilities about the monarchy,” the letter said.

Mr Lyman said: “The police told me there were no criminal charges, no lese majeste charge, no violation of immigration laws lodged against them. And I believe that the appeal will come off in favour of Shawn and Rodney.”

“They were free to go anywhere in the country. There was no arrest made and there was no bail,” Mr Lyman said.

The magazine’s legal adviser said the appeal process would take a matter of five days to two weeks before the immigration committee makes a final decision, and if it failed to help the foreign correspondents, he would proceed to the Administrative Court.

Nevertheless, neither Mr Crispin nor Mr Tasker would be replaced with anyone else from the magazine, though the two might possibly be judged guilty and deported as persona non grata from Thailand, he said.

He quoted Mr Vatikiotis as saying the magazine had maintained a “productive relationship” with Thailand and the Thai people for over fifty years.

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Police Refuse to Press Charges

Police yesterday decided against pressing lese majeste charges against two Bangkok-based journalists of the Far Eastern Economic Review magazine and senator Somkiat Onwimon.

Sirilak Panbamrungkij, parliament secretary-general, holds up a letter the Far Eastern Economic Review tendered yesterday to apologise for its Jan 10 article. Next to her is David Lyman, the magazine’s lawyer who submitted the letter. _ APICHART JINAKUL

The police decision came only hours after a magazine’s representative submitted a formal apology to the Thai people through Parliament President Uthai Pimchaichon.

Pol Gen Sant Sarutanont, the national police chief, said the magazine’s content and Mr Somkiat’s translation were not considered to be defamatory to the monarchy under article 112 of the Criminal Act.

The article provides for a jail term of 3-15 years against any person who shows disrespect to the monarchy.

Pol Gen Sant said the content and the translation were, however, inappropriate as they referred to the monarchy in an improper way.

He said he has already forwarded the police’s probe report on the case to the Immigration Bureau.

The report would be considered along with the two reporters’ appeals against the bureau’s decision to scrap their visas.

The Immigration Bureau’s view will be forwarded to an Interior Ministry panel in a few days for consideration whether the two should be banned from entering Thailand.

The Immigration Bureau has sche-duled a meeting today to discuss the investigators’ decision.

Shawn W Crispin, Review’s Bangkok Bureau chief, and Rodney Tasker, its long-time journalist, have left the government fuming through their writing in the “Intelligence” column in the magazine’s Jan 10 edition which touched on the relations of the government and the royal palace.

Mr Somkiat translated the article and gave copies of it to fellow upper house members to show whether it was the government or the magazine that was in the wrong.

The two Review reporters have been allowed 30 days to remain in Thailand while their appeals against the Immigration Bureau’s decision to scrap their visas are considered.

“Although the two were cleared of lese majeste charges, they have not been cleared of other offences committed under the immigration and printing laws,” said Pol Gen Sant.

The police chief said the police Special Branch was also studying a special report on Thailand put out by The Economist magazine.

The survey report, entitled A New Order and also touching on the royal family, has been suspended from distribution pending police consideration of its content.