BANGKOK, Thailand – Thailand’s junta on Friday, November 20, filed sedition charges against several workers at a small cable television channel for “spreading misinformation”, in the latest crackdown on the kingdom’s media.
Soldiers raided the Bangkok office of Fahhai TV on Thursday night arresting five staff members and closing the station, a junta legal advisor told reporters.
They were later bailed, but two others – a talk show host and a former police chief who appeared as a panelist on the channel – are still being sought.
“The main charge they face is inciting unrest which could cause a public uprising against the state (sedition) — this is punishable by seven years in jail,” Colonel Burin Thongprapai said after charges were filed with police.
Fahhai TV was a recently-minted cable channel also shown on YouTube. No one from the now shuttered channel was immediately available for comment.
Police are considering the charges, which also include broadcasting without a permit.
“The station broadcast misleading information,” army legal advisor Burin added without giving exact details.
But he said the channel misrepresented issues linked to “Rajabhakti Park.”
The park, a $28 million military scheme, has swung the spotlight on the army after rumblings of misappropriation of funds swirled through Thai media.
On Friday the army chief cleared his organisation of any wrongdoing in the scheme, which consists of seven giant bronze statues of Thai kings in a park on army land three hours south of Bangkok.
But the issue has touched a nerve with a military that seized power in 2014 extolling its commitment to purging the nation of corruption.
After an internal probe the army “found no corruption” in the park project, army chief General Teerachai Nakwanich told reporters earlier Friday.
Thailand’s media has been cramped by the junta since it seized power in 2014.
The military remains intolerant of criticism and has warned Thai editors against giving a platform to dissent, calling critical reporters in for “attitude adjustment” sessions.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha has also floated the idea of a single Internet gateway to control the information flow to the kingdom. – Rappler.com