thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

05BANGKOK5940 FOT (FRIEND OF THAKSIN) BUYS UP HUGE SHARES IN TWO OF THAILAND\’S LEADING NEWSPAPERS

leave a comment »

“40673”,”9/15/2005 11:02″,”05BANGKOK5940″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK5419″,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005940

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KPAO, PINS, PROP, TH, HUMAN RIGHTS

SUBJECT: FOT (FRIEND OF THAKSIN) BUYS UP HUGE SHARES IN TWO

OF THAILAND\’S LEADING NEWSPAPERS

 

REF: BANGKOK 5419

 

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR SUSAN M. SUTTON. REASON: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (U) SUMMARY. Within two days, Thailand\’s largest

entertainment conglomerate spent $US 66 million dollars to

buy 32% and 23% of shares in the parent companies of two of

Thailand\’s leading newspapers- Matichon, and the Bangkok Post

respectively. The company\’s President, Mr. Paiboon

Damrongchaitham, is known to have political connections to

the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Press

freedom groups and opposition lawmakers predictably condemned

the move as a blow for freedom of the press in Thailand.

Paiboon sought to deflect criticism at a press conference in

which he guaranteed that the newspapers would maintain their

editorial independence, and that there wouldn\’t be any

restructuring or layoffs. Matichon\’s founder is reportedly

planning to launch a counterbid to prevent Paiboon from

gaining control of a majority of shareholders. End summary.

 

2. (U) On September 12 and 13, Thailand\’s largest

entertainment conglomerate GMM Grammy Public Company, bought

over 32% of shares in Matichon and over 23% of shares in the

parent company of the Bangkok Post, making it the largest

shareholder in both enterprises. The Bangkok Post is one of

Thailand\’s two leading English-language newspapers and is

widely read by the local international community, and

Thailand\’s well-educated elite. Matichon runs several of

Thailand\’s leading Thai-language newspapers including their

namesake paper, Matichon. GMM also reportedly plans to buy up

at least an additional 43% of shares in Matichon. The total

cost of yesterday\’s buying spree amounted to 2.7 billion baht

($US 66 million) The President of GMM, Mr. Paiboon

Damrongchaitham, is known to have close ties with the Thaksin

administration and his GMM company has often been used to do

publicity for the administration.

 

REACTION OF CIVIL SOCIETY

 

3. (SBU) Press freedom advocates were understandably

concerned by the move, which they are certain will result in

restrictions on the editorial freedom of the papers in

question. They point to the 2000 precedent set by the

acquisition of a majority of shares in Thailand\’s only

private TV station, iTV, by Shincorp, (NOTE: Shin Corp. is

owned by the family of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. END

NOTE) which resulted in a pro-government shift in TV news

coverage. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX senior editor of the

XXXXXXXXX told Poloff that the recent

acquisition of shares by well-connected political figures has

affected the Nation\’s editorial direction.

 

TYCOON PAIBOON ASKS THAIS \”NOT TO WORRY ABOUT MEDIA FREEDOM\”

 

4. (U) Paiboon gave a press conference on September 13,

explaining that his acquisition of the shares in the two

newspapers was meant to \”establish synergy\” between his

entertainment business and the publishing world, and that he

and his company would not interfere in the editorial content

of the papers. He went so far as to assure media-watchers

that the newspapers would \”even able to cheer on (his rival)

RS Promotion.\” Paiboon also promised that there would be no

restructuring or layoffs at any of the newspapers nor would

there be any mergers. Political opposition leaders, members

of civil society and journalists at the two newspapers are

not convinced, and have lamented the move as further evidence

of a decline of press freedom in Thailand. Senator XXXX

XXXXXXXX summed up the situation, saying \”(These

newspapers) produce outstanding investigative reports on the

government….But now, that independence is insidiously being

jeopardized.\” The Campaign for Media Reform issued a

statement which noted its \”profound concern\” regarding the

situation.

 

5. (U) Both the Bangkok Post and Matichon are facing

substantial libel lawsuits from companies affiliated with the

government (Reftel A). Several of the smaller Thai

newspapers, including Naeo Na and the Thai Post, are facing

similar lawsuits. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXX opined that \”All of these (libel suits) were serving

to soften up the press.\”

 

6. (U) Matichon founder Khanchai Boonpan and his editorial

staff have vowed to fight the hostile takeover, which caught

them very much by surprise. The Nation reported that he had

secured 31% of shareholder support (NOTE: Khanchai reportedly

owns 24% of shares. END NOTE) and was considering a number of

strategies in order to prevent GMM from obtaining majority

control of the newspaper, including a counterbid. In

anticipation of a potential bidding war, prices for Matichon

stocks are rising quickly.

 

OPPOSITION NOT HAPPY EITHER

 

7. (C) COMMENT. The opposition Democrat Party (DP) is echoing

the concerns of press freedom advocates. DP Secretary

General Suthep Thaugsuban told Polcouns on September 14 that

the DP is finding it difficult to get air time and page space

on Thailand\’s electronic media and newspapers. Suthep

claimed that even media companies that are not controlled

outright by Thaksin and his family (like iTV and Shincorp)

are fearful of giving time and space to the opposition,

fearing that the government will pull lucrative advertising

contracts. Suthep complained that he has had to call

Suranand Vejjajiva, Minister attached to the Prime Minister\’s

office, and the person PM Thaksin has put in charge of media

issues, in an attempt to get air time for DP leader Abhisit

Vejjajiva\’s rebuttal of the PM\’s regular Saturday radio

broadcasts, with no satisfaction to date. END COMMENT

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: