Thailand: Police ban edition of political journal after articles on king

New York, April 4, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns a ban on an edition of Thai-language political quarterly Fah Diew Kan. On March 30, national police chief Gen. Kowit Wattana sent a notice to the journal’s editor Thanapol Eawsakul informing him of a decision to ban further distribution of the publication’s October-December 2005 edition. The order cited the 1941 Press Act as legal justification for the ban, claiming that the publication had “triggered disorderliness and was against the moral standard,” according to news reports.

The journal carried articles about the monarchy and Thai society, although Thai police did not cite any particular article. The order was issued soon after a group of pro-government protestors had read the monarchy-related articles to a crowd gathered in a public park in Bangkok. The order does not ban future editions of the journal.

“We call upon the Thai police to reverse their ban on Fah Diew Kan and allow the magazine to publish freely in accordance with the measures that guarantee and protect press freedom in the country’s 1997 constitution,” said Ann Cooper, CPJ’s executive director.

Laws providing jail sentences of more than 20 years for insulting the monarchy discourage critical media commentary about the king and royal institutions. In late March a group of pro-government protestors laid siege to Thai language daily Kom Chad Leuk for printing an article they considered inappropriate about the monarchy. Kom Chad Leuk fired the editor responsible for the item and agreed to protestors’ demands to stop publication for five days. The newspaper’s executive editors have since apologized for the news story and have sought a royal pardon from King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In another protest on March 31, a smaller group of demonstrators staged a rally and threw projectiles into the offices of the Manager Media Group, publisher of the Thai language Puu Jaht Gan newspaper. The group protested against comments referring to the monarchy made by Manager Group founder Sondhi Limthongkul during a recent anti-government protest.