enjoy your rights

October 15, 2006

When is one’s freedom curtailed? Along with the rest of Thailand, and to the outrage of the international community, I am currently living under martial law. This means I am not allowed to start a political party or get together with more than four other people to talk politics. I have seen plenty of gatherings of 10 or more people in restaurants and other places but presumably in their conversation, like President Bush, they assiduously avoid any topic that could be construed as relating to politics.* If I had a community radio station I might be a little more concerned. The new army regulations for those include:
“1. The community radio stations have to publish statements of the Council for Democratic Reform (CDRM) whenever it has announcement.
2. The community radio stations have to publish news according to the truth with intention of supporting the unity of the nation.
3. The community radio stations are not allowed to air news that might cause disharmony.
4. The community radio stations are prohibited from offering phone in shows.
5. SMS is not allowed.
7. Radio programs must publish the speeches, commands and projects of the royal family at 8:00 am and 6:00 pm along with the national anthem.
11. Community radio stations may not air anything that may adversely affect the nation, the religion or the monarchy.
13. Community radio stations must support the CDRM and support ethically sound politicians.”
I wonder how the BBC would react to this friendly advice. It hasn’t caused much of a stir here as I don’t know many people who listen to the stations involved. According to the Bangkok post “As long as martial law is still in effect, people would find it hard or impossible to enjoy their rights under the constitution.” So far, however, the Council for Democratic Reform has not issued any decrees to prohibit photographing moths or recording birdsong or banned imports of de luxe Muesli so, ostrich-like, I continue to find myself minimally inconvenienced. As only 12 people turned up at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument for a demonstration against martial law, I guess my feeling is not untypical. What I will protest about is the US pulling almost $24 million in funding from the Thai government because of the coup. Now that could threaten my muesli.

* I realised President Bush was a dog lover but I didn’t until recently realise that he also enjoyed making jokes with his male friends about cats .

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