Community radio stations shut down
More than 300 community radio stations in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son suspended broadcasts yesterday on orders from the ruling council.
Maj-General Supa-aksorn Sangprakul of the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) sent letters to the governors of the three upper northern provinces instructing them to close down community radio operations.
The Public Relations offices in Lamphun, Lampang and Phayao also told community radio stations in those northern provinces to turn their transmitters off.
Terdsak Jiemkietwattana, head of the community radio union in the upper northern provinces, said the 300 stations were taking a break to prevent airing any programming that might go against the policy of the CDRM.
Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Lamphun form the political stronghold of the Thai Rak Thai Party, where many local people are still believed to be loyal to sacked prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, he said.
"I look at it as an attempt by the military to prevent Thaksin from using the community radio network in his political base as a channel to air his side," he said.
Lt-General Saphrang Kanlayanamitr of the Third Army Area has called a meeting with operators of more than 500 community radio stations at the Third Army headquarters in Phitsanulok.
Terdsak said the union would meet the military to discuss the status and future of community radio out of concern that stations across the country would be dissolved now that the Constitution has been revoked.
Terdsak said many people called him to say that they felt frustrated with the shutdown of community radio and uneasy that they had no medium to voice their opinion.
"I seek permission to open community radios. Only providing songs without political comments is OK," he said.
Chiang Mai University lecturer Teerapat Wannaroumon said the repeal of the charter was a good chance to systemise community radio so it can operate without interference from commercial interests.
In Udon Thani, Muan Chon Community Radio, run by the pro-Thaksin Udon Lovers Club, stopped broadcasting on Wednesday. Before the coup, the station called on Thaksin supporters to rally, demanding that he be allowed to remain in the premier's post.
Police were stationed at the radio building as well as the office of Siang Tham Community Radio Station, owned by revered monk Luangta Maha Bua.
Terdkiet Songbanphot, secretary of the Buri Ram community radio club and director of Wat Klang Nang Rong Community Radio, said none of the 50 community radio stations in the province has been muzzled so far. The operators were called for a meeting with the provincial Army ground force and were politely asked to be careful when reporting political news.
Terdsak said his station did not take any phone-in comments on politics and all political news on his station would be carefully announced by him only.
He was referring to new guidelines set by the Information and Communications Technology Ministry.