Thai military storms red-shirt TV station to shut down programme

The Thai military abruptly stormed into a TV station affiliated with anti-establishment red shirts to shut down a TV programme deemed sensitive to national security.

According to Nitchanan Jamduang, a TV programme host of Peace TV whose Facebook username is Nan Nitchanan, at least five military and police officers on Wednesday night came to the TV station affiliated with the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), a red-shirt group.   

The officials demanded that the station stop broadcasting the ‘Peace TV Special’ programme which featured Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, Prime Minister from 1996 to 1997, as a guest speaker.  They reasoned that the programme incites conflict and could damage national stability.

Military and police officers inspect Peace TV’s broadcasting station during the night of 29 April 2015 (Photos from Nitchanan Jamduang)

Mistakenly thinking that the programme was being broadcast live, the officers carried out a brief search of the station in an attempt to find the former PM and the programme hosts. However, the programme was recorded and had already been broadcast once on Wednesday morning.

Nitchanan wrote on her Facebook profile that, in the programme, the ex-PM talked about the conflict in the restive south of Thailand, and commented that it could lead to separation of the predominantly Muslim Deep South from the Thai state.

Earlier on Monday, the National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission of Thailand (NBCT)’s Broadcasting Committee announced its decision to suspend Peace TV’s broadcasting license.

Natee Sukonrat, the chair of the NBCT’s Broadcasting Committee, said that the decision was made because the TV station repeatedly broadcast inappropriate programmes which are sensitive to national security.

According to Khaosod English, key UDD leaders on Wednesday said that they might submit a royal petition to HM the King to protest the NBTC measure.    

In early April, the NBTC issued an order to suspend for seven days the broadcasting signals for Peace TV and TV 24, two TV stations affiliated with UDD.  Peace TV was barred from going on air from 10 to 16 April while TV 24 faced the same prohibition from 11 to 17 April.

The NBTC claimed that programmes on both stations caused public confusion and divisiveness, and incited conflict.