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The Star Online: Nation

Thailand coup: Netizens, Thais condemn media gag

Posted: 22 May 2014 08:18 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: Thais and expatriates have taken to social media to condemn attempts by armed forces to censor and stifle the media since taking power in a coup on Thursday evening.

Leftist activist Giles Ji Ungpakorn commented on his Facebook page that "Prayut (Chan-O-Cha) dispensed with the charade of receiving orders from the king. He just announced his power grab by himself, pushing the monarchy aside and exposing its total lack of power in the face of the military."

"The last time the army raided bookshops and libraries in Thailand was on Oct 6,1976. Now they are doing it again and increasing Internet and website censorship," he added.

Thai journalists, such as Bangkok Post senior news reporter Achara Ashayagachat have also taken to social media to comment on the coup.

"Niwatthamrong Bunsongpaisal is the shortest-lived PM. 16 days in office, thanks to the coup @4.30 pm. Thawee Bounyaket had 17 days in office," he said via his Twitter account  @AAshayagachat.

This media shutdown has also been criticised by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (Seapa) in a press release, which took the military government to task for shutting down news channels, which they noted "conveniently avoided members of the mainstream media associations."

"The shutdown of these channels - though highly politicised and in the control of political protagonists - has targeted the relatively newer channels of information that has represented the recent expansion of media freedoms in Thailand, away from the docile mainstream print media and the state or army-controlled broadcast media," it said.

It added that the martial law authority was focused on suppressing criticism of Thai armed forces, and not on containing inciting and polarising speech that fuelled violence and conflict.

It added that orders from the Peace and Order Maintaining Command (POMC) have been "chillingly focused on the media and free expression" including the prohibition of the sale, distribution of any content which can cause fear and misunderstanding of the military's actions".

It also said five out of 12 Martial Law orders from the POMC directly impact media freedom and freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Seapa executive director Gayathry Venkiteswaran said that Thai cable and service operators have been told to de-link their foreign news services.

"The only stuff allowed are army broadcasts and the usual Royal Family news. Thai PBS may be off-air but is bravely going on over YouTube," she added.

She claimed that Wanchai Tantiwithayapitak, PBS deputy director was later escorted out of the studio by troops.

On Twitter, expatriates commented on the blocking of both free TV stations and satellite news channels.

"Can no longer watch @CNN here in #thailand all channels are broadcasting military anthems and messages #ThaiCoup," said one Twitter user, Zane Keller (@Zkellr).

Freelance journalist Francis Wade (@Francis_Wade), tweeted "BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera taken off the air in #Thailand as of 19.48 Thai time (via @JonahFisher) #ThaiCoup".

"With Int'l news stations being taken off the air, the internet is your friend.   BBC News Int'l #ThaiCoup," said Coffee Beans & Greens owner Charles Pulaski (@charlespulaski).

He also shared a tweet by travel blogger @RichardBarrow, which said "BBC World & CNN are being blocked in #Thailand by the military but we can still watch them on Internet TV #ThaiCoup"

On his Twitter, Barrow added, "The TAT (Tourism Authority of Thailand) are setting up a help center for both incoming & outgoing tourists at Suvarnabhumi Airport #Bangkok #Thailand #ThaiCoup."

Chandra Muzaffar: BN blundered in handling PAS' hudud issue

Posted: 22 May 2014 08:03 AM PDT

PETALING JAYA: The Barisan Nasional Government blundered in the way it handled the issue of PAS' hudud, said Dr Chandra Muzaffar.

Speaking at a forum on hudud organised by the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, the academician and political activist said that the way the ruling Government handled the situation lacked judgment, understanding and maturity.

Dr Chandra also said Minister at the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom should have never said, in Parliament, that the Government was prepared to give way to any state in Malaysia to implement hudud.

"That was an invitation. You can now present the Bill, but once it is presented how are Umno MPs going to vote on it?" he said, in reference to the private member's Bill that PAS wanted to present to pave the way for implementation of hudud in Kelantan.

"They either abstain, which would be used against them, or they would vote for it," he said.

Dr Chandra said that the Bill will still be presented and it was only postponed for now.

"This will place the Umno MPs in a very difficult situation. They have to be seen as supporting this particular Bill," he said.

He added that if BN was thinking of politicking with hudud, they had to think about the consequences.

"Even if they thought about it in terms of politics, this is a total blunder. This is because the power base of BN is in Sabah and Sarawak and not the Peninsula.

"If the power base shifts, BN will collapse," he opined.

He added that he did not see how BN was going to extract itself from this particular situation.

MH370: China will always stand by Malaysia in dealing with incident, says ambassador

Posted: 22 May 2014 07:19 AM PDT

KUALA LUMPUR: China has vowed that Malaysia will not face the current unprecedented disappearance of a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) aircraft alone.

Its ambassador to Malaysia, Huang Huikang, said China was committed to help and trust Malaysia's efforts in handling the situation, which he described as a consistent commitment from the beginning.

"Our relations have never been affected by any unexpected single incident. Through the cooperation in dealing with the incident, our relations have become stronger and closer.

"These (have) once again proved a friend in need, is a fiend indeed," he said at a press briefing in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia here Thursday.

On March 8, MAS flight MH370 disappeared with 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers on board the Boeing 777-200ER aircraft. Almost two-thirds of the passengers are Chinese nationals.

"If you look at the progress that has been made in dealing with the incident from the very beginning, the Chinese government and its people firmly stand side by side with Malaysia," said Huang.

He added that China had organised a large-scale international search and rescue operation, and also mobilised its satellites, ships and aircraft.

He said China had put so much effort in dealing with the incident as two-thirds of the passengers were its citizens.

"It is the Chinese government's responsibility - no matter how much money we have spent - we are doing our best to assist Malaysia," he said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is scheduled to visit China from May 27 until Jun 1, to mark the 40th anniversary relations. - Bernama


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