Monarchy debate broke the law, say Thai authorities

By Kwanhathai Malakan and Anapat Deechuay | Source: ANN
Episodes of the “Tob Jote Prathet Thai” programme on Thai PBS that focused on the monarchy included contents that constitute a criminal offence, Royal Thai Police spokesman Pol Maj-General Piya Uthayo said yesterday.

An initial check of the tapes of the fourth and fifth episodes of the monarchy-debate series found that some statements by guests on the programme were in violation of the law.

Piya said that because the programme has attracted a huge public interest and the issue has ramifications on national security, the police have appointed a team of 50 investigators led by Pol General Chatchawan Suksomjit with Pol Lt-General Saritchai Anekwiang as deputy investigator. Police from stations across the country have been instructed to accept complaints about the programme from members of the public.

The national police chief ordered the team to conduct a speedy yet careful investigation and report on their progress within 30 days.

The public is also warned against disseminating information on the Internet that might be deemed insulting to the monarchy and in violation of the Computer Crime Act. Anyone found involved in the dissemination of the lese majeste content would also face action.

Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung yesterday hit back at critics who said the police transcriptions of the “Tob Jote” programme violated media rights.

“Anyone who said police transcribing the recording was a violation of rights were careless speakers. The Constitution states so. I attended a meeting at the Royal Thai Police headquarters yesterday, and I ordered Pol General Adul Saengsingkaew to transcribe thoroughly and let me check. I will let my legal team check. No matter if it is a respected speaker, lecturer or TV host who violated the law, I will take legal action. I will be responsible for this. The government doesn’t need to be responsible as I’m in charge of the Royal Thai Police. If no one violated the law, fine, that’s it,” Chalerm said.

“Don’t they have anything better to do than criticise the monarchy? It is their right to do so but there must be some limit,” he continued. “Thailand has a population of 64 million. Why give so much attention to the opinions of a small group of people?”

Meanwhile, executives of Thai PBS issued a statement expressing regret over issues surrounding “Tob Jote” and thanked members of the public who expressed opinions about the station’s programming without resorting to violence.

Thai PBS executives said they would take responsibility by having the TV station’s policy committee set up a sub-committee to accept all complaints about the programme. If the sub-committee finds that the station, producers or staff produced programmes with content that were in violation of media ethics, it would come up with correction and rehabilitation measures, including apologies.

The sub-committee comprises academics from various sectors, most of which are from outside the agency.