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PHUKET: In stark contrast with the family of deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who speak with one voice on seemingly all matters, the Vejjajivas appear rather more free to speak for themselves.
Thus it was refreshing and encouraging yesterday to note the freedom with which Bangkok Post columnist Suranand Vejjajiva, cousin of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, was able to air some views.
As reported in The Nation this morning, Suranand was speaking at a symposium on media freedom organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.
He said Thailand is currently facing many censorship problems, a state of affairs brought on by the Emergency Decree put in place by the government of his cousin Abhisit during the protests.
Whoever is in power must recognise that there must be room for differences of opinion, Suranand opined – freely.
“Who’s going to define national security? What constitutes lese majeste? Who is going to define that? … We’re living in special circumstances because the emergency decree is out there…. Right now you can close down community radio without having to go through the judicial process,” said Suranand.
The emergency decree, he added, enabled the government of his cousin to detain ‘Voice of Thaksin’ editor and red-shirt key member Somyos Phruksakemsuk for three weeks, although no coherent charge was ever made against him.
“There are no clear rules of engagement on what you can do and what you can’t,” said Suranand, who admitted that when he was in charge of the government-controlled media under the Thaksin administration, some Thai Rak Thai MPs wanted to shut down the anti-Thaksin ASTV television.
The government at that time sought the court’s opinion and was told it would be unconstitutional.
Suranand said a lot of mainstream media are too accommodating of the current government and have overblown the fear of Thaksin as a threat to the “superstructure” of the Kingdom, while in fact, in his (Suranand’s) opinion, Thaksin is merely a threat to the present government.
Very few newspapers continue to ask what happened with the 90 deaths, he said.
“[As for] The Nation and the Bangkok Post, I don’t see them asking anymore,” he said, adding that people were being forced by the media and the government into believing in “one-sided propaganda”, which dictates that “You have to be united in only one direction.”
Presenting a different view, Thepchai Yong, director of TPBS television and former group editor of The Nation, said that according to a recent poll, a majority of Thais could accept the extension of the state of emergency.
Thepchai said the mainstream media today is not controlled by any generals, although some self-censorship is practised because the media themselves are “mindful of the public” which is politically divided.
“The Thai media are Thai. They have been like that for decades,” he said, adding that the mainstream media should themselves look back and reflect on their role in order to regain the lost trust.
“How can they win back the trust that they have lost? This is a big question.
“It has less to do with the issue of media freedom. The Thai media have all the freedom in the world to report on what they want to report,” he said.
Thailand’s representatives at a regional riverine forum in Vietnam have opposed the Chinese government’s plan to build 12 hydropower dams on the lower Mekong River.
They argued that the dams would destroy the river’s ecosystem.
Prasarn Maruekpithak, chairman of the sub-committee for studying value, development and its impact on the Mekong River basin, was invited by the Mekong River Commission to attend a workshop in Ho Chi Minh City.
The meeting, held on Thursday, discussed four options – to scrap all the dam projects; to delay the projects for study of the possible impacts; to build a dam as a pilot project; and to move ahead with plans to build 12 dams, Mr Prasarn said.
Mr Prasarn said he told the meeting that the only advantage of the dams was electricity production, and that there were several other alternative energy sources that could be utilised.
Thai immigration police say that a man holding dual Swedish and Finnish nationalities was nabbed yesterday in Pattaya on charges of embezzling 10.27 million krone (approx 40 million baht) from a Swedish company.
Sven Tommy Lindfors, 50, was arrested at the request of Interpol to face charges of embezzlement in January 2008 from the firm Nyfors Teknologi AB, a high-end supplier of optical fibre-handling equipment based in Stockholm, the police said.
Athiwas said Lindfors entered Thailand at the end of last year on a Finnish passport.
A few hours of pampering at a spa, dinner with the Prime Minister, speedy exits at the airport…. These are just some of the ways that Thailand is saying thank you to a group of overseas customers it calls “Thailand’s Best Friends”.
The campaign is part of the government’s efforts to convince the international community that Thailand remains a friendly place to do business, despite concerns about political instability after 10 weeks of anti-government protests.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva invited 150 of the top importers of Thai goods for a four-day expenses-paid trip this week. The invitees come from 43 countries.
The ministry started the campaign a year ago with 50 companies, but organisers decided this year to triple the number and throw in new gifts.
People’s Daily [China]
Thailand’s neighbor Cambodia is eyeing temples and cultural sites in its Preah Vihear Province in an attempt to increase tourism levels and compete with Thailand and Viet Nam as tourist magnets.
Delivering a speech at the launch of student contests in Phnom Penh on Thursday, Sok An, deputy prime minister, said that Preah Vihear, located about 500 kilometers north of Phnom Penh, is rich with potential for tourism.
He said that in addition to Preah Vihear Temple, a World Heritage Site that is currently a source of major Thai/Cambodian friction over border delineation issues, there are about 200 more temples in the province, plus many other natural sites and rare birds.
He noted that with 200 giant Ibis, out of a current world population of only 500, Preah Vihear could be turned into a major attraction for eco-tourists.
Sok An claimed that the Cambodian government had spent nearly USD 100 million to improve the infrastructure in and around Preah Vihear, building and repairing roads and bridges to improve access to the province for tourists.
He said that Cambodia
— Gazette Editors
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