Front page article goes missing from Intl New York Times printed in Thailand

A Thai publishing company has removed from the front page of the International New York Times an article about a dismal Thai economy under military rule.  

News kiosks in Thailand offered the 1 December 2015 issue of the International New York Times on their shelves with an article at the centre of its front page missing.

Instead of a headline and text, an empty space contains the simple message “The article in this space was removed by our printer in Thailand. The International New York Times and its editorial staff had no role in its removal.”

What the Thai printer decided to remove was the latest article by Thomas Fuller titled ‘Thai spirits sagging with the economy’.

Fuller wrote that this year, 2015, the property crime rate in Thailand has risen more than 60 per cent and the prospects for the second largest economy in Southeast Asia are rather bleak under the prolonged political turmoil and the current military regime of Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta leader and Prime Minister, who staged a coup d’état in May last year.

(Left) The normal 1st December 2015 Issue of the International New York Times. (Right) The same paper sold in Thailand.

In September 2015, the same printer refused to publish the September 22 issue of the International New York Times containing an article written by the same author, saying that the title and the picture used in the front page article depicting a pro-establishment yellow shirt carrying a portrait of the King was “too sensitive”.

The article talked about the health of King Bhumibol, who is about to turn 88 on this coming Saturday, 5 December 2015, and the future of the Thai monarchy.

Shortly after the incident, the New York Times announced that it will no longer publish in Thailand in 2016.  

Last year, the Thai authorities blocked the website of the Daily Mail, a UK-based news agency, over an article about the Crown Prince of Thailand.  The site remains blocked.

Articles critical of the Thai monarchy are still strictly forbidden in Thailand under Article 112 of the Criminal Code, the lèse majesté law, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment per count.

After the coup, offences under the lèse majesté law are handled by military courts, which allow no appeal.   

In August 2015, a Thai military court sentenced a man accused of defaming the Thai monarchy on a social network to 30 years in jail in a trial held in camera. The ruling is the heaviest jail term ever recorded for a lèse majesté case.

Freedom of the press in Thailand has also spiralled down under the military regime, who have the power to invoke Section 44 of the Interim Constitution, which gives the authorities absolute power to maintain national security, to silence journalists and crush political dissidence.

In late September, a prominent journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk was detained by the military at an army base outside Bangkok over his twitter comments criticising the military regime.