Can any readers cast light Sutichai Yoon’s concerns about erosion of free speech in Thailand?
Almost surreptitiously, the Cabinet on October 18 approved a proposed amendment to a piece of legislation that is unquestionably aimed at imposing new controls on press freedom. Earlier suspicions of a clampdown on the media performing their checks and balances against the new government have now been confirmed, much sooner than expected.
The Pheu Thai Party had campaigned in the election on the platform of “genuine democracy”. It has decried “double standards and injustice”. The rallying cry was for the grassroots people to have a real say in running the country. The “elite” and “privileged” who were controlling the channels of communications were to be replaced by the “real voice of the people”.
If that theme was based on genuine intention and political conviction, the new government should have made it a top priority to demolish all the rules and regulations that stood in the way of the common people expressing their opinion in such a way that they could do away with controls and interference in the people’s freedom of expression.
The proposed amendment to the Printing Act of 2007 by the Cabinet sends signals in the opposite direction. If passed by Parliament into law, it will give the national police chief the power to censor, close down and threaten the constitutional rights of any newspaper with impunity.