| BANGKOK, June 26
BANGKOK, June 26 Thailand's military authorities
are setting up a network of panels to closely monitor domestic
and international media and crack down on criticism of what the
junta sees as its efforts to right the country, a senior officer
said on Thursday.
Rights groups and journalists have criticised curbs imposed
on the press since the May 22 bloodless coup the military says
was aimed at ending six months of street protests and political
Adul Saengsingkaew, deputy head of the National Council of
Peace and Order, said the military would monitor reports that
were false or posed a threat to national security.
Offenders who refused to cooperate could face charges.
"There will be five committees set up to monitor local and
international media that will report to the military daily,"
Adul, a former national police chief, told Reuters by telephone.
"Police will not pursue legal action against media so long
as journalists are cooperative and help share news that is
constructive and true. Those that spread inappropriate content
may face criminal charges."
He expressed particular concern about reporting on the
activities of a government-in-exile that launched a campaign of
civil disobedience this week, almost certainly based in a
Officials have made little comment on the group, saying only
that there is only one legitimate government.
Junta spokesman Winthai Suvaree said the panels were not
intended to restrict Thais' access to information.
Instead, he said, they would help the state make the truth
known faster. "We won't close or obstruct the public's right to
know truthful news," he added. "We ask for cooperation to write
balanced and appropriate news."
The military has shut hundreds of "inappropriate websites",
radio stations and television channels since the coup.
It has promised to install a government by September and
stage elections in a little more than a year, but says it must
first ensure stability. The United States and European Union
denounced the takeover and halted cooperation programmes.
Data released on Thursday showed exports and factory output
fell more than expected in May, showing that the economy remains
weak and underscoring the tough task the military faces.
Further battered by lower tourist arrivals, the economy
shrank 2.1 percent in January-March over the previous quarter.
The Thai Journalists Association, in a statement on its
website on Wednesday, said it was worried about the action
against the media. "It could impact the information the public
receives and be an obstacle to our work," it added.
Hundreds of political figures, activists, academics and
business people have been detained. Most were promptly released
and told to steer clear of politics and public statements.
Opponents have staged a few minor protests, quickly broken
up by security forces. Some largely unco-ordinated "silent
protesters" were briefly rounded up.
Most of those detained had links to the ousted government of
Yingluck Shinawatra and her exiled brother Thaksin, who handed
out social benefits to disadvantaged northern regions during
more than five years as premier. He was deposed in a 2006 coup.
Yingluck was ordered by a court on May 7 to step down for
abuse of power. The rump cabinet that remained was removed in
the military takeover.
Protesters opposed to the Shinawatras and linked to the
royalist elite in Bangkok led six months of protests to topple
Yingluck's government. At least 30 people died in periodic
outbursts of violence.
The junta has proclaimed national unity through "love and
reconciliation" as its main aim. Round-the-clock radio and
television broadcasts lionise the army's virtues.
A song the junta says was written by coup leader General
Prayuth Chan-ocha, with lyrics such as "We will act with honesty
and just ask that you trust us", is played at the top of the
hour on most broadcast stations.
(Additional reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Editing by Ron
Popeski and Clarence Fernandez)