Thai Regime Attacks Media and Telegram
Thai police stated on Monday, it had ordered an investigation of four news outlets and imposed curbs on messaging app Telegram under emergency measures to try to stop protests.
Thailand’s Cabinet backed a proposal from lawmakers to convene a special session of Parliament to discuss anti-government protests that have swept the nation’s capital and other major cities in the past week.
The house will meet for two days from Oct 26, Mr Anucha Nakasai, minister for the Prime Minister’s Office, told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in Bangkok on Tuesday.
The proposal needs to be endorsed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
Thai lawmakers on Monday sought an early Parliament meeting to discuss ways to end the protest movement calling for the ouster of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government, a rewriting of the constitution and reform of the monarchy.
The brutal riot police attack against unarmed and peaceful students and imposition of the emergency laws caused wonder even the conservative Thai daily newspaper.
It remains dubious if the declaration of the emergency situation was ever justified given that the anti-government protests had shown no signs of violence, stated the the editors. The use of water cannons against unarmed, mostly young protesters made many people wonder whether the government was using disproportionate force, the authors suggested.
Attack on media
The announcement of the media investigations prompted accusations of an attack on press freedom by the government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former junta leader the protesters are seeking to drive from office.
Thousands of protesters gathered at an intersection in Bangkok chanting “keep fighting”, in the latest demonstration in three months of protests that have also called for reforms to the monarchy.
This action takes away people’s rights to information, said 19-year-old Jin, who like many protesters was only willing to give one name.
The government ordered a ban on news and online information that could affect national security last Thursday, when it also banned political gatherings of more than five people in the face of the growing challenge.
According to a police document dated Oct 16, investigations have been ordered into content from four media outlets as well as the Facebook page of a protest group.
Mr Putchapong Nodthaisong, a spokesman for the digital ministry, said it had requested court orders to take down content by the four media outlets and the Facebook page of the protest group Free Youth, among more than 300,000 pieces of content it said violated Thai laws over the last week.
The Manushya Foundation, an independent group which campaigns for online freedom, called the measures an attempt to silence free media.
“Since the ban on protests did not work, the military-backed government hopes to create fear of telling the truth,” its director Emilie Palamy Pradichit said. “We urge free media to resist.”
Police chief Suwat Jangyodsuk also said he had ordered the digital ministry to restrict Free Youth’s group on Telegram, a messaging application that protesters have used to coordinate in recent days.
Protests have taken place every day since they were banned. Police said 74 people have been arrested since Oct 13. Nineteen were granted bail on Monday, the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group said. The members of the pro-democracy movement with a creative Milk Tea hashtag appealed for a support of the international community especially in the Indo-Pacific region.