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Media Members in Thailand Encouraged to “Re-Educate” Themselves

Thailand’s current Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is not afraid of the press, encouraging journalists to ask questions. The caveat? Their line of questioning had better not offend.

Luckily for members of the media in the country, foreign as well as local, this week the Thai government will hold a meeting for 200 journalists, the hope being that all can reach an understanding of what constitutes appropriate.

As if this plan was not ridiculous enough, keep in mind that this is the same man who “in jest” said that he would simply execute journalists who did not report the truth. This was delivered in deadpan when asked by reporters how the government would deal with those who do not follow officially decreed protocol, particularly in their coverage of the Thai government, reports Reuters.

Not long before Prayuth dished out this rather intimidating speech to the media, the junta also cancelled a forum on press freedom that was to be held by German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. This long-standing organization actively supports social democracy around the globe. Junta spokesman Colonel Winthai Suvaree said that the forum would have to be postponed because “we are still in a sensitive time,” referring to the prolonged tension resulting from strong political division in Thailand.

Most recently, Prayuth has stated that he has never tried to censor the media. “I am not afraid of the press but I ask for fairness because I have never told the press not to speak or write anything. I am friendly with the media.”

And yet there are reports of foreign journalists being denied or otherwise having issues receiving media accreditation and/or visas in the country. The junta insists that there have been no targeting or policy changes in regards to journalists attempting to work in Thailand.

This week’s meeting, to be organized by The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), will take place at Thailand’s national police headquarters. Lt. General Suchart Pongput is heading up the event, claiming that he was motivated to do so not because he was under orders but because of questions previously posed by reporters, claiming that fallout from said questions has directly lead to confrontations between senior officials and other members of the government, along with the police and the army.

Prayuth’s military dictatorship has been in power for just over a year now, after their coup d’état which booted out now disgraced former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. During this time, numerous protestors and prominent critics of the junta have been arrested and there have been several campaigns to shut down certain Thai media outlets. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Prayuth explained, “The media needs to be reformed. I have to advise them. I have to tell them what they can and what they cannot do.”

In addition to these seemingly hypocritical comments on media and censorship, there is the added bonus of Prayuth’s reputation for continually mocking the press—even throwing a banana skin at a journalist who approached him at a trade fair.

Yes, this is Thailand’s current regime. And it is unfortunately rather par for the course in the Land of Smiles.

H/T: Reuters