THAILAND: Battle for the airwaves from NY to Bangkok
Before Prime Minister Thaksin could declare a state of emergency, military took over all channels and moved journalists
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Bangkok --- As troops moved into Bangkok, a battle shaped up on the other side of the world to control the airwaves in Thailand.
As soon as he heard about the coup plot, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra moved to send a message over TV, via satellite, to declare that he was still in charge.
But the military moved just as swiftly to black him out.
Reports said Mr Thaksin heard about the coup attempt around 9pm (Tuesday night, Bangkok) in New York.
He went to his room and called reporters from the Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand and Channel 11 to tell them he had an important message to broadcast.
He planned to declare a state of emergency covering Bangkok to pre-empt the military coup, but hardly anything worked in his favour.
He wanted to have his message sent via satellite to Channel 9, but was told it was not technically feasible and that he should consider speaking over the telephone.
He decided to switch to Channel 11 to make his state of emergency declaration.
But before he could do so, the military took over the channel and moved the editors and reporters to another room.
All the other state-controlled TV stations, owned by the military, were ordered to be on stand-by to air an important message.
Mr Thaksin decided to opt for a voice-over, on Channel 9 at 10.20pm. In that recording, he ordered General Sonthi Boonyarataglin to report to the Office of the Prime Minister under the command of Police General Chidchai Vanasaditya, the Deputy Prime Minister.
But his broadcast was cut short after 10 minutes. Sources told the Bangkok Post that troops had burst into the Channel 9 offices and ordered station managers to take Mr Thaksin off the air.
A few minutes later, at 11pm, Gen Sonthi's camp effectively took over, with tanks parked at all the strategic places around the capital.
Date Posted: 9/21/2006