Thai PBS team halts programme on monarchy
The production team behind a controversial Thai PBS talk show announced yesterday that it would stop producing the programme to protest the public television station's decision not to air Friday night's episode.Host Pinyo Traisuriyathamma decided to stop hosting "Tob Jote Prathet Thai" (Answering Thailand's Questions) after the second part of a two-part series on the monarchy institution was removed from the schedule.
Pinyo posted a message on the programme's Facebook page saying that he and his team would stop producing the show. In the message he denied reports that the axing of the episode was a result of interference by the government or those close to or linked with the monarchy institution.
The dropped programme featured interviews with Thammasat University lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul and social critic Sulak Sivaraksa.
Thai PBS's news programme at noon yesterday clarified the cancellation, saying a group of people came to the station and requested that the programme not be aired. The management explained that the decision was not made at the request of a state agency or any institution.
Thai PBS said the programme had over the past week presented different perspectives on national reconciliation and amnesty and issues on Article 112 of the Criminal Code, which is related to the lese majeste offence. Interviewees included former foreign minister Surakiat Sathirathai, who used to serve the Royal Family. An earlier programme that also featured an interview with Thammasat's Somsak sparked public criticism. Pol General Vasit Dejkunchorn, a former chief of the Office of the Royal Court Security Police, presented his views against Somsak.
Attracting the most criticism was an episode featuring a debate between Somsak and Sulak, who has declared that he is a loyalist who wants to protect the monarchy. Critics questioned the motivation for Sulak's outspokenness about the move to amend the lese majeste law.
Thai PBS said that following a protest, its policy committee called an urgent meeting of news editors to make a decision. The meeting was carried out in accordance with media ethics and was not subject to coercion by any agency or institution, the station said.
Pinyo's Facebook message said: "To show our media standpoint against internal intimidation and interference without professionalism, which is also deemed in violation of the Constitution, and to express strong disapproval against the cancellation of the programme's episode 'The Monarchy Institution under the Constitution', I and my team have made a unanimous decision to stop producing the programme, because I can no long answer questions over how we can maintain media freedom, which is protected by the Constitution.
The message said that although the station's policy committee had unanimously approved the airing of the episode, the last minute change not to air it had widely eroded public faith in Thai PBS.