THAILAND: Police raid community radio station and confiscate equipment
October 17, 2008
ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAMME
Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-231-2008
17 October 2008
THAILAND: Police raid community radio station and confiscate equipment
ISSUES: Freedom of speech; censorship
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has been informed by the Campaign for Popular Media Reform (CPMR), Thailand that another community radio station has been raided and had its equipment taken without warning or explanation, other than that it was allegedly operating without a permit. The matter is currently with the public prosecutor.
According to the information available to the AHRC, on 22 July 2008 a group of police and government officials raided the community radio station at Sai Yok Noi in Kanchanaburi, west of Bangkok, and seized a variety of equipment. They accused the radio station operator of running the station without a permit under a newly-introduced law. When the staff protested that they were broadcasting legally, they were taken to the police station for inquiries. The matter is now with the public prosecutor, who on October 22 will meet with the accused operator and inform of what charges if any will be laid.
The raid has disturbed the station operator, as the radio station was not broadcasting anything illegal or provocative, and was operating under the terms of the existing regime for community broadcasters in Thailand.
Following the abrogated 1997 Constitution of Thailand there was a flourishing of community radio stations in Thailand, which had previously been restricted. However, under the former government of Thaksin Shinawatra various attempts were taken to obstruct the progress of these stations, including closures and prosecutions on various pretexts, such as that the stations did not have permits to operate even though a regulator had not been established for that purpose. See for instance the conviction of Sathien Janthorn in February 2006, which was spurred by his airing allegations of corruption against provincial officials (AHRC UP-024-2006). Under the military regime that took power in September 2006 also there were further arbitrary restrictions imposed and warnings issued against local stations.
Please write to the following persons to ask that the inquiries against the radio station be dropped, that its equipment be returned to it and that it be entitled to broadcast without further interruption.
Please be informed that the AHRC is writing a separate letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the regional human rights office for Southeast Asia, calling for interventions into this case.
THAILAND: Unfair closure of community radio station and investigation into operator
Name of accused: Wasant Panruang, 60, Chairman, Sai Yok Noi Community Radio Station, Tha Sao Sub-district, Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand
1. Pol. Lt. Col. Chaowalit Intharakornudom, Sai Yok Sub-district Police Station
2. Pol. Snr. Sgt. Mjr. Somsak Panyathikawat, Sai Yok Sub-district Police Station
3. Pol. Snr. Sgt. Mjr. Vichan Noonurat, Sai Yok Sub-district Police Station
4. Pol. Snr. Sgt. Mjr. Cheera Kongwong, Sai Yok Sub-district Police Station
5. Pol. Sgt. Charoon Pumthong, Sai Yok Sub-district Police Station
6. Phongsak Sapayakom, National Telecommunications Commission
7. Peerapong Pobpumsuk, National Telecommunications Commission
8. Col. Sommad Samranrat, National Telecommunications Commission
9. Charanwong Kaewsaikum, National Telecommunications Commission
10. Wattana Sinthorn, National Telecommunications Commission
Date of incident: 22 July 2008, around 11:15am
Place of incident: Sai Yok Noi Community Radio Station
Items confiscated: Broadcast radio unit set at frequency of 99.750 MHz, mixer, DVD player, radio receiver, VCD player, microphone and cords, antenna and cords
I am writing to protest the raid and closure of the Sai Yok Noi Community Radio Station in Kanchanaburi Province of Thailand, and to call for the radio station operator to be allowed to resume broadcasting and not face any criminal actions.
According to the information that I have received, on 22 July 2008 the above ten officials entered the station and confiscated the items listed above on the ground that the radio station was operating without a permit under the new Broadcasting and Public Media Act BE 2551 (2008), together with the Radio Communications Act BE 2498 (1955). The matter is now pending with the public prosecutor.
I am confused by the raid on these premises as I am aware that the radio station was operating in accordance with the Frequency Allocation and Broadcasting of Radio, Television and Telecommunications Act BE 2543 (2000), which allocated not less than 20 per cent of public broadcast time to community groups (section 26), and the Cabinet order of 16 July 2002, which committed the government to protecting the right of community radio stations to broadcast freely. Furthermore, the raid and confiscating of this equipment occurred even though the National Telecommunications Commission has the authority to grant temporary permits under the new Broadcasting Operation Act 2008 which has been in force only since this March.
I am aware that in recent years there have been deliberate attempts to create confusion and uncertainty about the status of laws and institutions for the regulating of public broadcasters in Thailand so that these can be used for political and financial objectives rather than for objective legal purposes. Such confusion has led to needless persecution and convictions of persons like Mr. Wasant who merely believed that they would be doing their society a service by running a local radio station.
I urge that this not be allowed in this case and that the inquiries into the Sai Yok Noi Community Radio Station be closed and the station have its equipment returned and be allowed to reestablish and continue with broadcasting as before. I also take this opportunity to call, at this critical time in Thailands history, for freedom of expression through the media to be strongly upheld and protected.
I look forward to your intervention.
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:
1. Chaikasem Nitisiri
Office of the Attorney General
Tel: +662 224 1563/ 222 8121-30
Fax: +662 224 0162/ 1448/ 221 0858
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
2. Somsak Kiatsuranont
Minister of Justice
Office of the Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice Building
22nd Floor Software Park Building,
Chaeng Wattana Road
Fax: +662 502 6699/ 6734 / 6884
Tel: +662 502 6776/ 8223
3. Pol. Gen. Kowit Wattana
Minister of Interior
Office of the Ministry of Interior
Atsadang Road, Ratchabophit
Pranakorn, Bangkok 10200THAILAND
Fax: +662 226 4371/ 222 8866
Tel: +662 224 6320/ 6341
4. Somchai Wongsawat
c/o Government House
Pitsanulok Road, Dusit District
Fax: +662 282 8631/ 280 1589/ 629 8213
Tel: +662 280 1404/ 3000
5. Pol. Gen. Patcharawat Wongsuwan
Royal Thai Police
1st Bldg, 7th Floor
Rama I, Patumwan
Fax: +66 2 251 5956/ 205 3738/ 255 1975-8
6. Suranan Wongvithayakamjorn
National Telecommunications Commission
87 Phaholyotin Rd, Soi 8
Phayatai, Bkk 10400
Tel: +662 271 3511
Fax: +662 290 5240
7. Prof. Saneh Chamarik
The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand
422 Phya Thai Road
Pathum Wan District
Fax: +66 2 219 2940
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org)