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Thai media body urges army to stop intimidation

Publication Date : 13-01-2013


The Thai Journalists Association (TJA) called on the military yesterday to stop intimidating the media, while urging media practitioners to abide by their code of conduct after dozens of uniformed officers protested twice at ASTV Manager's offices.

The TJA issued a statement saying all kinds of media intimidation should be stopped, as unless the media have freedom, people's right to access free flow of information and facts would be in jeopardy.

If the media committed wrongdoing, the military should take legal action or file complaints with the National Press Council, the TJA said.

Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said he had asked dissatisfied subordinates to stop protesting in front of the office of ASTV Manager Daily newspaper.

Yesterday, some 50 army officers were there for the second time to protest at the paper after the Army chief was sharply criticised.

Earlier, the army officers demanded that the paper, which described the Army chief as a "lousy" leader over its handling of the Preah Vihear Temple dispute with Cambodia, issue an apology.

Army spokesperson Col Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Prayuth was aware of the actions by some officers calling on the paper to stop criticising him and asked him to thank his men "for loving him as a gentleman".

Sansern said Prayuth stressed that the men did nothing to violate others' rights but he wanted all such action to cease.

"The army chief urged officers not to visit [ASTV Manager Daily] any longer," he said, adding that Prayuth added that people cannot expect to solve problems if they only stick to their feelings.

The spokesman added, however, that Prayuth said he hoped such things would not occur again "so the public will not wrongly understand the Army."

Sansern added that Prayuth said that anyone who criticised or cursed the Army would be judged by society, as the Army is not a hoodlum outfit.

The Army also asked ASTV Manager Daily not to send any reporter to cover Children's Day activities at its premises yesterday - only to turnaround and drop that idea.

First Army Division commander Lt Gen Paiboon Koomchaya, said men from his division has asked for permission before protesting in front of the paper and he gave them permission but told them not to break the law and to respect others' fundamental rights by not threatening them.

"It's normal that they love their commander," Paiboon said.

In a related development, deputy Army spokesperson Col Winthai Suwaree said the Army had a plan to defend Preah Vihear but it could not be revealed to the public. However, he insisted the Army would stick to a legal framework in solving the dispute. But he said the Armed Forces was willing to listen to suggestions from all sides.

"The Army doesn't want the media, people or any group to see the Army as being on the other side simply because we may not express ourselves in support of the media or some group of people."

Some 50 Army officers, who refused to reveal what unit they are from, were at the Manager office at 10.30am yesterday and police had to intervene as they exchanged words with ASTV staff on who told soldiers to spend more time cracking down on anti-monarchist websites.

Meanwhile, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the Army chief should tell his subordinates to be patient while media outlets should strictly follow their professional code of conduct while exercising their right, as all parties should try not to be part of conflicts.


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