Journalists summoned to military barracks over red bowl article

The Thai military have summoned 2 journalists in the northern province of Chiang Mai for a discussion over a news report about a red bowl inscribed with Thai new year greetings from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thairath news on Wednesday, 30 March 2016, reported that police officers in Chiang Mai at 1:30 pm contacted the editorial team of Thairath in the province and ordered them to send Chaipin Kattiya, head of the local Thairath news crew, and another Thairath staff member to Kawila Military Base for a discussion.

At the military base, Maj Gen Koson Pratumchat, Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) Commander at the 33rd Military Circle, asked the two journalists about a news article about the red bowl, which was published on the Thairath news website on 26 March.

The news article shows a picture of the red bowl which is inscribed with the  message “Although the situation is very heated, may all brothers and sisters receive cool bliss from this bowl with love and care. Happy Songkran Day” and Thaksin’s signature.        

Asked by the General where they got the picture of the red bowl from, the two informed the officers that it was from a viral social media campaign to save water at the upcoming Songkran Festival.

They added that the main content of the news article with the red bowl picture was about the campaign.  

The military officer then further asked them who took the picture of the red bowl. One of them answered that it was not taken by a journalist, but by a friend.  

The officers told the two that the picture and news article could incite conflict and instability, adding that they should not report such news again.

After being interrogated by military officers, the two were sent to the police for another round of inquiry and were allowed to go home without charge.

On Tuesday, military officers in Chiang Mai arrested Theerawan Charoensuk, 57, for posting on Facebook a picture of herself holding the red bowl with the Songkran message from Thaksin.

The picture of the bowl was posted on her Facebook profile together with images of Thaksin and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, with the message “Happy 2016 Songkran Day, this Songkran, I especially miss all my brothers and sisters very much and want to help you solve problems, but before that I would like to send encouragement, love and thoughts.”

The military filed a charge against Theerawan under Article 116 of the Criminal Code, the sedition law, for posting the picture. Yesterday the Military Court of Chiang Mai released her on bail of 100,000 baht, about 2800 USD, pending a military trail. If found guilty, she could face up to seven years in prison.

Thairath censored a message on the red bowl used on its news article about the summoning of the two journalists by the military published on 30 March 2016

The picture of the red bowl with images of Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra in the background (Photo from Phaisan Chanpan’s Facebook page)