Thai netizens have come out against the purchase of live broadcasting rights for the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, to be hosted by Cambodia in May, following reports Thailand needs to fork out 28 million baht to air the event.
Vath Chomroeun, secretary-general of the Cambodia SEA Games Organising Committee (Camsoc), has denied the host nation plays any role in deciding what the cost of the rights should be, and the sum is determined by negotiation, market value and the size of the expected audience, which varies by nation.
"We always stay in line with SEA Games standards," Mr Vath told reporters.
Citing an unnamed source, a media outlet said the Sports Authority of Thailand (SAT) is requesting funding from the National Radio and Telecommunications Commission's research and development fund to cover the cost since the SEA Games are on the list of protected sporting events that are required to be shown live on free-to-air TV.
The "must have" competitions include the SEA Games, Asian Games, Olympics, Paralympics, and World Cup, which are required to be broadcast for free.
Earlier on Wednesday, SAT governor Kongsak Yodmanee said the Ministry of Sport is already in negotiations to lower the price in the hope that people will be able to watch the event in the country.
However, the report prompted netizens to bombard online forums and take to social media to leave negative feedback on every post made by the SAT on its public relations Facebook page, opposing the use of taxes to fund the purchase.
One netizen commented: "On behalf of all Thais, I urge the agency to use our taxes in more appropriate ways and be a model for responsible spending."
Another netizen added: "Do not pay for the live broadcast as we won't die from not watching it. It's such a waste. Using that money to develop our sports infrastructure would be better."
It is customary that the host of the SEA Games does not oversee the sale of the rights itself and instead receives a fee from the deal. Vietnam earned around 350,000 baht in television money as a host in 2021, whereas the Philippines had to make do with 175,000 baht from the prior meet in 2019.
It has been said by sources that when Laos hosted the games in 2009, which was the first time that the SEA Games Committee agreed to allow the host country to demand payment for live broadcast rights, the country sought a payment of 11 million baht.
But none of the participating countries agreed and the fee was slashed, according to officials present during negotiations who added that ever since, no host country has tried to charge a fee above US$10,000 (350,000 baht) -- until now.