Prayuth takes aim at TV monarchy debate
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha has lashed out at the Tob Jote TV programme for broadcasting a debate over the role of the monarchy.
- Published: 20/03/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: news
Prayuth: ‘Timing was not appropriate’
He said airing the broadcast was inappropriate at a time of political conflict.
The first instalment of the five-part discussion series aired on Thai PBS last week, but the fifth and final episode was abruptly cancelled.
The station's decision to withhold the programme caused an uproar and the public broadcaster eventually aired the final instalment on Monday night.
The show featured a debate about the monarchy between well-known academic Sulak Sivaraksa and Thammasat lecturer Somsak Jeamteerasakul.
"It's within the constitutional rights of the media and TV producers to present a programme," Gen Prayuth said Tuesday.
"However, I must ask if this is an appropriate thing to do during this time when political conflicts remain sharp."
He said there are many other pressing problems to be tackled other than the role of the monarchy.
The show was the first to publicly discuss whether the monarchy needs to be protected against defamation by the lese majeste law. People found guilty of violating the law can face between three to 15 years in prison.
- Regulators step in: Thai PBS probe extended
The army chief insisted the programme was inappropriate. He said the monarchy is part of the country's history and prestige and must be preserved. He said he has served the royal family himself and can testify that the institution provides happiness to the people.
The monarchy has been under the constitution since the 1932 revolution. Gen Prayuth said the only way the monarchy can be protected is by Section 112 of the Criminal Code, known as the lese majeste law.
He said this is not the right time to make changes to the lese majeste law.
"We should focus [instead] on how to prevent rival students from attacking one another and on steering youths away from drugs," he said.
Lessons on good morals and the country's history are more important, he added.
Gen Prayuth said he was confident most people in the country revere the monarchy and want it to be protected.
"People who are in the minority must accept that," he said. "If they are uncomfortable living here because of the lese majeste law, then they can find somewhere else to live."
The lese majeste law should be respected, he said. "If you know you will be prosecuted if you defame the monarchy, then don't do it."
Gen Prayuth insisted he has no hard feelings against the people involved in the programme. He said he understood them and respects their opinions even though he disagrees with them.
The House panel on political development, media and public participation will today decide whether to probe a complaint against Thai PBS for insulting the monarchy by airing the broadcast.
About the author
- Writer: Wassana Nanuam & Mongkol Bangprapa