"The military junta has just issued yet another grotesque directive which, in addition to depriving the population of news about Thailand, threatens the very existence of private publications that are dependent on advertising", deplores Robert Ménard, General Secretary of Reporters Without Borders, in a letter to Colonel Tin Hlaing, Home Affairs Minister of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association (BMA, the exiled Burmese journalists’ organisation) condemn the directive, which forbids the publication of articles about Thailand and Thai advertisements in Burmese newspapers and magazines. Reporters Without Borders and BMA have called on the Minister to revoke the directive immediately, on the grounds not only that it represents an unfair financial sanction of the private press, but also that it is an act of censorship.
According to BMA Reporters Without Borders’ information, the Literary Works Scrutinizing Committee (one of the military junta’s censorship agencies) told the managing editors of Rangoon’s private press on 22 May 2002 that publication of articles referring to Thailand and were forbidden, as well as Thai advertisements. The editors had to sign an agreement undertaking to comply with the directive. According to the dissident radio Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), the editors were also ordered not to use the terms ’Thailand’ and ’Yodaya’ (the name formerly used for the Kingdom of Siam).
A Rangoon journalist interviewed by DVB said that the ban on Thai advertisements could mean that some publications will be forced to close down. Thai companies are the principal source of advertising revenue for many newspapers and magazines.
The issuing of this directive is linked to the current diplomatic and military crisis between Burma and Thailand. The SPDC decided to close frontier checkpoints between the two countries after border skirmishes between troops from Rangoon and armed rebel groups.
Another report, published on the web site of The Irrawaddy (a magazine published in Thailand) says that on 24 May the military junta banned the business and finance weekly The Market Journal from publishing advertisements from the private sector General Service Companies. This directive follows the arrests of a number of businessmen accused of failing to comply with national accounting rules.