Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is intolerant of criticism, launched political and judicial harassment against some of the country’s more independent commentators. There were at least eight cases of censorship 2005 and as many abusive defamation complaints.
A defamation trial brought by the company, Shin Corps, owned by the family of the head of government, against press freedom activist, Supinya Klangnarong, illustrated Thaksin Shinawatra’s hounding of critics. Risking a prison sentence and a heavy fine, Supinya Klangnarong demonstrated to the judge that all he had done was point up a conflict of interests for Thaksin as head of government and of a company.
In September, family members of the prime minister, unleashed another offensive against press owner, Sondhi Limthongkul. After getting his political talk show pulled from the programmes of a national channel, several defamation complaints were lodged against him. Limthongkul hit back against his old ally, Thaksin, through people power and with the support of the King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who wields great power in the country, managed to get the prime minister to back down and cancel his court actions.
Infuriated by its critics, the government in June closed two community radios and blocked several critical websites. Fm9225.com, which puts out several radio programmes online, was accused of endangering “the country’s unity and security”. All this without any legal basis.
Confronted by a bloody rebellion in the Muslim-majority south, the government swung between crackdown and dialogue. The press was not really directly affected, but the adoption of emergency law in July gave the security forces the right to monitor all communications and to censors news.
Two journalists were murdered in 2005, and police proved themselves unable to uncover either the motives or the perpetrators of the crimes. In the south, a journalist who was fiercely critical of some local figures was killed in February. The editor of a newspaper was murdered in November in the tourist centre of Pattaya. His colleagues said he had been threatened after publishing reports on prostitution rings.