Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Thailand's misnamed "Public Relations Department"

In Thailand, the government has a Public Relations Department in Bangkok which dates back to the mid-1930s. Notionally, it is a classic civil service information organisation but for many years has operated as an extension of political forces.

A recent Bangkok Post article quoted protesters who wanted the PR Dept to represent all views, especially people outside the main political parties. They have been protesting peacefully outside its building since Monday.

A Thai friend in Bangkok has reported how the PR Dept and free-to-air media, which are controlled by political interests aligned to the government, have distorted news about protests or ignored them. (Shades of the Istanbul protests earlier in the year):

"The PR Department and other free-to-air TV stations (which reach majority of Thai people in rural areas since they have no access to other new/alternative media) have been repeatedly sending messages that the protesters are armed, they are portrayed as dangerous, and trying to destroy democracy in Thailand.

"I have to say that it was not true at all since I was myself wondering whether it is true or not and I stopped by the (protest) site (in Democracy Square) on last Saturday's night. They have only whistles and hand clappers as their weapons.

"On Sunday, more than one million people rallied in Bangkok, but there was no news coverage on national television at all. Can you believe that? Please pray for Thailand!"

Reuters and the BBC, however, are reporting the protests: