CJFE is deeply troubled by the recent threats made by Thailand’s junta leader, Prayuth Chan-o-cha, against journalists and media workers in the country. In attempting to silence and intimidate journalists, the leader has signalled his intent to continue perpetuating the worsening climate for free expression in Thailand.
On March 25, Prayuth was asked by a journalist how the military junta would deal with those who do not adhere to the official line, and he responded “We'll probably just execute them.” Over the past 12 months, protections for free expression in Thailand have sharply declined, which make the potential validity of Prayuth’s comments extremely worrisome. After Prayuth took power in May 2014, a number of media violations followed. Following the declaration of martial law, 100 websites and 15 television stations were blocked, while the outlets that remained open were guarded by armed soldiers. Last year’s introduction of orders 103 and 97 restricts criticism of the ruling Nation Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and towards any military authorities, making journalists fearful of fulfilling their duties due to threats of backlash and detention by the regime.
Earlier this year, an annual report by Freedom House showed Thailand has fallen from “Partly Free” to “Not Free” since 2012. A report released in September 2014 by Amnesty International revealed that 665 individuals, including journalists, academics, students, politicians, and social and political activists, have been detained at one time or another in Thailand under martial law. The NCPO has implemented radical constraints on freedom of expression and the media’s ability to circulate crucial information under the illegitimate guise of maintaining public order.
CJFE calls on Thai authorities to release any individuals illegitimately detained under martial law, and allow all media outlets and journalists to operate freely throughout the country without fear of arrest, threats or persecution. Lastly, CJFE urges Thai authorities to take the necessary steps to guarantee the free expression rights of all individuals in Thailand.
Cc: Mr. Philip Calvert, Ambassador of Canada to Thailand
The Honourable Robert Nicholson, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs