THAILAND’S Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS) has cancelled a ground-breaking public affairs show discussing the sensitive issue of the Thai monarchy in a move that again sparked debates over the country’s lese majeste law.
Thailand is very sensitive to any discussion of the Thai monarchy, which is protected by Article 112 of the Thai Penal Code, also known as the lese majeste law. The law prohibits defamation of the King, and other members of the Thai monarchy.
A news bulletin released by the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA) says TPBS has cancelled the final episode of the political talk show “Tob Jote Prathet Thai” or “Answering Thailand’s Questions” following protests over the show’s content. The SEAPA website says the five-part series was the first ever to discuss the issue of the Thai monarchy openly on Thai television.
The final episode, which was supposed to air March 15, featured a debate between scholars Somsak Jiamtheerasakul and Sulak Sivaraksa. It was not clear what positions the two scholars took on the Thai monarchy that generated so much controversy.
The SEAPA bulletin said that on the night of the episode’s airing, a group of protesters appeared in front of the TPBS studies demanding the cancellation of the show and threatening to “take the law into their own hands.” The studio’s executives said they had to cancel the show ”for fear of sparking social conflict,” said the SEAPA bulletin.
But despite the cancellation of the episode, two separate investigations have been launched by Thai agencies.
The National Broadcasting and Television Commission (NBTC) is reviewing the rules on the prerogatives of TV stations to cancel shows.
More importantly, the Royal Thai Police is also investigating whether the TV series had violated Thailand’s lese majeste law.
“Police said that the show concerns a matter of national security, and warned that persons reposting remarks of the show’s panelist may also be breaching the law,” SEAPA said in its website. SEAPA also quoted a police investigator who said that they have already found content that violated the lese majeste law.