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Thailand November 16, 2006
H.E. Surayud Chulanont
Office of the Prime Minister
Thanon Nakhon Pathom
Kingdom of Thailand
Fax: (011.66.2) 629-8213
The Overseas Press Club of America, which has been defending press freedom around the world for more than 65 years, is dismayed by your interim government’s repression of Thailand ‘s independent media and your apparent disdain for the democratic principle of free expression.
Thailand ‘s interim constitution was put in place on October 1, 2006, by the Council for Democratic Reform (CDR), the military group that put you in power. Crucially, it omits Articles 39, 40, and 41 of the 1997 Constitution, which broadly protected press freedom. Your Excellency, the assurance of a healthy, independent media is essential in any democratic nation. The drafting of a new permanent constitution cannot be accomplished without a national debate, fully aired in the media, over its terms.
The omission of media protection in the interim constitution is the most serious failure of your new government, and it seems to have fostered a host of wrongs:
* The CDR has shut down between 300 and 400 community radio stations in the north and northeast.
* Armed soldiers have been posted by the CDR in local television newsrooms, where they are censoring coverage of the former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Coverage of Thaksin by CNN and the BBC is also being censored.
* The CDR has banned politically oriented call-in radio programs, blocked websites that post critical commentary, and censored Internet chat rooms containing critical comments about the military coup makers.
* Journalists have been ordered to report only “constructively” about the CDR and your interim government.
* Maj. Gen. Thaweep Netniyan, a spokesman for the CDR, threatened that unnamed foreign correspondents who allegedly insulted the monarchy with their coverage of October’s coup could be charged with lese majeste and sent to prison for as long as 15 years.
This sorry record is a wholesale repudiation of the democratic institutions carefully nurtured over the years by His Majesty, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and by many governments preceding yours. We urge you to order an immediate end to the curbs that now fetter Thailand ‘s media, to restore constitutional guarantees of press freedom, and to return your country to the ranks of the world’s democracies.
Thank you for your attention. We hope you will reply.
Co-chairmen, Freedom of the Press Committee
H.M. King Bhumibol Adulyadej
The Grand Palace , Thanon Na Phra Lan
Kingdom of Thailand
Fax: (011.66.2) 22-43-25/ 224-3259
H.E. Virasakdi Futrakul, Ambassador
Embassy of the Kingdom of Thailand
1024 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 401
Washington , DC 20007
Fax: (202) 944-3611
Ambassador Laohaphan Laksanachanthon
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Thailand to the United Nations
351 East 52nd Street
New York , NY 10022
Fax: (212) 688-3029
Ralph L. Boyce
U.S. Ambassador to Thailand
Embassy of the United States of America
120/22 Wireless Road
Fax: (011.66.2) 254-2990/ 205-4131
The Editor, Bangkok Post
The Editor, The Nation
The Editor, Daily News
The Editor, Pattaya Mail