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05BANGKOK6269 SENATE SELECTION OF NATIONAL BROADCAST COMMITTEE COMES AMID CONTROVERSY

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“41694”,”9/30/2005 9:36″,”05BANGKOK6269″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,

 

“05BANGKOK1367|05BANGKOK3522|05BANGKOK6240”,

 

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

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.”,

 

“UNCLAS BANGKOK 006269

 

SIPDIS

 

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

 

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Media/Freedom of the Press

SUBJECT: SENATE SELECTION OF NATIONAL BROADCAST COMMITTEE

COMES AMID CONTROVERSY

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 6240 (B) 2005 BANGKOK 3522 (C) 2004

BANGKOK 1367

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. After a long series of delays,

Thailand\’s Senate nominated 7 candidates to the National

Broadcasting Commission (NBC) on September 27th. The

selection of the candidates came amid controversy, as many of

the Senators allegedly had previous connections with some of

the candidates they selected. Critics are saying that in

light of the governing Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party\’s already

strong control over much of Thailand\’s media, this latest

step is a serious blow to press freedom in Thailand. A legal

challenge from a failed nominee together with vocal criticism

coming from within the Senate itself could still derail the

process for the new nominees. END SUMMARY.

 

A LONG TIME IN THE MAKING

 

2. (SBU)

 

The final selection of the NBC has been a long time in the

making (Reftels B and C). The job of the NBC commissioners

is to regulate the multi-billion baht broadcasting industry

within Thailand. Among their most important tasks is to

allocate the use of frequencies used by government agencies,

the police, the military, and any other media outlet.

Critics say that the TRT has influence over many of the

Senators involved in the selection process and will use a

friendly NBC to favor its supporters in the allocation of

frequencies and shut out its opponents.

 

3. (SBU)

 

The 7 commissioners were selected from a group of 14

finalists. Given the controversial nature of the

appointments, the Senate spent 5 hours debating whether or

not they should continue selecting the finalists, or start

all over again from scratch. Although a smaller Senate

committee had already determined that many candidates had

government or military ties that presented a conflict of

interest, the Senate ultimately decided to go ahead with the

vote anyway — on the condition that it be done under a

secret ballot. The combined vote total of the 7 winners was

 

SIPDIS

50% higher than the other 7 candidates, which made the

contest hardly close. In addition, 83 Senators voted for the

exact same slate of 7 that were elected. However, those

selected appeared to be qualified -* 5 of those selected are

high-ranking academics, and all 7 nominees have professional

backgrounds in the media.

 

CONTROVERSY COULD GROW

 

4. (SBU) Comment: The newly-selected nominees are by no

means assured automatic appointment to the Commission. There

remains a legal and political minefield. The seven names

will go to the Palace for the King\’s formal approval.

Whether the Palace will approve the nominees while a vocal

minority of the Senators protest their illegitimacy remains

uncertain. Another point of danger in the process is the

petition filed in the Administrative Court by failed nominee

Pramut Sutabut, who charged that the recruitment process for

the nominees was illegitimate. If the Administrative Court

rules that the recruitment process was indeed illegitimate,

then the Senate would have sent a tainted list to the Palace

for approval. With the controversy over Auditor-General

Charuvan\’s nomination still rankling the public (Ref A),

another case of suspect practices in the Senate selection

process could further sully the upper house\’s image.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:59 pm

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