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08BANGKOK2021 Thai Media Sides with Opposition During Censure Debate

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“160571”,”7/2/2008 23:41″,”08BANGKOK2021″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,

“08BANGKOK1951″,”VZCZCXRO8666

RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2021/01 1842341

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

R 022341Z JUL 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 5412

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3584

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC”,

“UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002021

 

DEPT PLEASE PASS EAP/PD, EAP/MLS, DRL

PACOM FOR FPA

 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PHUM, PREL, PGOV, KPAO, TH

SUBJECT: Thai Media Sides with Opposition During Censure Debate

 

REF: BANGKOK 1951

 

BANGKOK 00002021 001.2 OF 002

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (U) The recent censure debate over the performance of Prime

Minister Samak\’s administration has swept the headlines with

virtually all local Thai print and broadcast media outlets

dedicating significant space and airtime to readouts on the daily

action in the House. Local print dailies devoted large portions of

their June 25 – June 27 editions to coverage of the speeches and

commentary from the floor, while many of the national television

stations aired live coverage throughout the day from the

parliamentary debate sessions. The dispute over Preah Vihear

temple, located on the Thai-Cambodian border, remained in the

spotlight of all coverage. Nearly all media outlets seemed to favor

the opposition party in the debate, including Thai Rath, the most

widely circulated print daily in Thailand, which nearly always shows

support for the government in power, including the embattled Samak

administration. End Summary.

 

CENSURE DEBATE DOMINATES THE NEWS

———————————

 

2. (U) Local Thai coverage of the recent censure debate over the

performance of Prime Minister Samak\’s administration dominated both

print and broadcast media. The majority of print dailies, as well

as television and radio talk shows, devoted significant space and

airtime to coverage of the daily parliamentary sessions. Front page

exposes, complete with full color photos and virtual play-by-play

readouts of the debate action, were featured in the June 25 – June

27 editions of nearly all print dailies. Live coverage from the

floor of the Parliament was featured throughout the day on many

national broadcast outlets, including state-owned NBT (formerly

Channel 11) and TV Thai, Thailand\’s first and only public

broadcasting service.

 

3. (SBU) The dispute over Preah Vihear was clearly the most visible

and hotly debated issue, taking center stage in the media (Ref A).

Headlines in the June 25 -June 27 editions of nearly all leading

local print dailies made direct reference to the Preah Vihear issue

and lead editorials focused solely on the government\’s controversial

actions over this extremely sensitive dispute.

 

MEDIA PLAYING FAVORITES; SIDING WITH OPPOSITION

——————————————— —

 

4. (SBU) Media coverage of the censure debate has been anything but

unbiased and balanced, with the majority of media outlets clearly

taking sides with the opposition. Print media, which has always

been known to openly criticize the government and enjoys a

particularly antagonistic relationship with Samak himself, has come

out fighting against the current administration. The brunt of the

punishment has centered on the shoulders of a few, particularly

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, with Samak receiving some hard

hitting blows as well. For example, the June 25 edition of Khao

Sod, a popular Thai-language print daily with a circulation of

approximately 700,000, ran the headline \”Abhisit, Samak Exchange

Heated Debate; Noppadon Injured.\” The same day\’s edition of Kom

Chad Luek, another widely read Thai-language daily with a readership

of about 800,000, ran several articles in which Prime Minister Samak

and Foreign Minister Noppadon were harshly criticized on their

performance in the House debate.

 

5. (SBU) Some media observers have expressed concern over the clear

bias demonstrated towards the opposition in recent media coverage.

During a casual conversation at a June 25 lunch, the business news

editor from Thailand\’s leading English-language business daily, The

Nation, told AIO that she was dismayed at the way that the local

media was covering the debate, saying it was \”very bad that they

were taking sides with the opposition,\” reasoning that the media

should be providing more balanced reporting on such an important

domestic political issue.

 

AND THE TWIST

————-

 

6. (U) In an interesting twist for local Thai print media, Thai

Rath, the most widely read print daily in Thailand (readership of

approximately 1.5 million) known for its consistent lean towards

whichever government is in power, including the embattled Samak

administration, came out against the government in this latest tete

a tete with the opposition. Its June 25 edition ran headlines about

Democrat party leader Abhisit\’s deft attack on the Samak

administration and contained an article that criticized Foreign

Minister Noppadon, saying he was not in \”good shape from the start\”

 

BANGKOK 00002021 002.3 OF 002

 

where the Preah Vihear temple was concerned. On June 26, Thai Rath

also ran a lead editorial reading, \”At least this censure debate

will remind the Royal Thai Government of the responsibilities and

priorities it must set.\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (SBU) Although the local Thai media, particularly print outlets,

have been known to openly criticize the government, we have rarely

seen the fervor with which they have shown their disdain of late.

It appears that the Samak administration has hit a particularly

sensitive nerve with its controversial treatment of the Preah Vihear

dispute, and not even the press has remained immune to the

nationalistic sensitivities it evokes. On this issue in particular,

and on the censure debate as a whole, the media has clearly taken

sides and given this round to the opposition. End Comment.

 

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 16, 2011 at 6:19 am

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