The Nation questions the government’s legitimacy

The Nation questions the government's legitimacy - Bangkok Post is silent - June 21, 2004
It is Monday and that means tough editorials from The Nation. As it sticks to its critical portrayals of the government, The Nation has had its broadcasting unit, Nation Television, barred from transmitting via satellite outside of Thailand.

The Nation responds with two editorials--one signed The Nation and one by the pseudonymous Chang Noi. The Bangkok Post, which long ago decided to steer clear of direct criticism of the government, remains silent.

Tradition of turning state assets into crony wealth - The Nation, June 21, 2004
...The new factory for manufacturing fortunes is privatisation or corporatisation. The format was set by the sale of 30 per cent of PTT in late 2001. Somehow the four biggest purchases were secured by people connected to the government, namely number 27 on the Thai Rak Thai's party list, his wife, and relatives of two Thai Rak Thai Bangkok MPs. Over the next two years the price of these shares multiplied five times, much more than the market average.
This was partly due to a suspiciously low original price (so low that the entire offering sold out in two minutes), and partly to some suspiciously large short-term surges in value which the government declined to investigate...


More power taken from the people - The Nation, June 21, 2004
...The complete takeover of the Constitution so that it becomes whatever the government in power wants it to be? Not only is the broadcast media now totally in the hands of the government - and the victim of its propaganda - but also the administration's political "cronies" are being rewarded with manipulated interpretation of the rules and laws...
The question of fairness is one thing, the government's legitimacy in handling these cases is quite another. It means that the government under this prime minister is taking away the "power of the people" and handing it to select groups of technocrats and business associates, keeping the public from expressing its diverse views - all for its own political gain. What's next if the government has no legitimacy as guardian of the Constitution?


[2015 note: Like many Thai newspaper articles from the early days of the Thai internet, this article is no longer online. Below is the complete text of the original article.]

More power taken from the people

The Nation, June 21

ITV, Channel 11/1, Channel 5 - where will it all end? The complete takeover of the constitution so that it becomes whatever the government in power wants it to be? Not only is the broadcast media now totally in the hands of the government - and the victim of its propaganda - but also the administration's political "cronies" are being rewarded with manipulated interpretation of the rules and laws. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra might have suspended the controversial move by his cousin, who is the Army commander, to "dress up" Army Channel 5 for stock market listing, but it is no more than a political emergency stopgap. The premier dismissed criticism from academic and NGO quarters, even though they were absolutely right in their assessment that the constitution has been violated.

A series of acts by the government on the broadcast media no longer leaves it in the grey area - it's as "black and white" as it comes. This editorial from The Nation can be made with full righteousness because our affiliate, Nation Television, has been subject to unfavourable treatment at the top level of the government through interpretations of the law that not only don't serve the public, but also threaten freedom of _expression and democracy as a whole.

Among other things, Nation Television was told not to transmit its content via satellite for transmission globally - or into Thailand from outside - even though it is merely a content provider and not a broadcaster. It was barred from seeking an uplink transmission on grounds of security, even though foreign programmers such as CNN and others from China, Korea, Japan and the United States can beam anything to any viewer in this country who installs a satellite dish in their home.

And the government's justification has always been that Nation Television must wait for the setting up of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC).

However, the government did not raise any questions when iTV, a free- to-air TV station majority-owned by the family of the prime minister, sought to change its contract to air less news and more entertainment programmes - an issue which goes to the heart of the founding of the TV station. Nor did the government show any signs of telling Channel 11 to wait for the setting up of the NBC when the station carved out bandwidth from its allotment for another news-programme producer, claiming it was all still part of the one frequency. The programme producer was even able to run advertisements (the parent channel couldn't even do so).

And the government also played for time rather than reprimand the Army commander who signed a questionable document on Channel 5's privatization, which is also in violation of the constitution, stipulating again that any such move needs to be judged by the NBC. This will only encourage another state-owned TV channel, Channel 9, to seek to fence itself off from the power of the new commission, whose mandate is nothing less than to allocate TV stations and broadcast frequencies to as diverse an array of people throughout the country as possible in order to better serve different communities.

The question of fairness is one thing, the government's legitimacy in handling these cases is quite another. It means that the government under this prime minister is taking away the "power of the people" and handing it to select groups of technocrats and business associates, keeping the public from expressing its diverse views -all for its own political gain. What's next if the government has no legitimacy as guardian of the constitution?
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