iTV rapped for report on driver's final words
Soldiers sent to broadcaster's newsroom; reporter queried
Pranai Suwannarat, director of the revived Southern Border Provinces Development Centre, welcomes Boonchu Phaiwan, wife of the taxi driver who killed himself to protest the coup, at Don Muang military airport yesterday. Boonchu met with Prime Minister Sur
Fearing the highly publicised suicide of taxi driver Nuamthong Phaiwan could trigger a pro-democracy revolt against the September 19 coup-makers, the military yesterday reprimanded iTV for reporting the final message of the man who killed himself to protest against the coup.
An additional 20 soldiers were dispatched to the station after a phone call from a high-ranking military officer to iTV's managing director, Songsak Premsuk, and news editors to warn them that the Council for National Security (CNS) was disturbed by the station's reporting on the suicide.
A source from iTV's newsroom said the CNS intervention might have been prompted by fear iTV was trying to help deposed premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Another officer from the CNS secretariat called iTV reporter Jom Petchpradab to ask why he conducted an interview with Nuam-thong two weeks prior to his suicide.
Jom got an exclusive interview with Nuamthong on October 14, while he was attending commemorations of the 33rd anniversary of the 1973 pro-democracy uprising. Nuamthong had just recovered from injuries caused by his first suicide attempt on September 30, in which he rammed his taxi into a tank at the Royal Plaza.
The station did not air the interview initially because of martial law restrictions, but decided to release it after Nuamthong's suicide.
Jom said he told the officer, whose name he could not remember, that he did the interview because of Nuamthong's strong faith and willingness to sacrifice for democracy.
"I reassured the officer that I was not involved in any conspiracy against the CNS, nor am I a part of the 'undercurrent'," Jom told The Nation, referring to the CNS' term for an alleged pro-Thaksin movement. "I also told him that I would feel sorry if the interview tape were used to serve ill intentions."
The Army's Civil Affairs Department yesterday reportedly sent a letter to the six public TV channels summoning their news editors for instruction today on "constructive reporting for peace of the nation".
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont met with Nuamthong's wife, Boonchu yesterday to express his condolences and gave her Bt20,000. Surayud also asked Nonthaburi Governor Pranai Suwannarat to oversee and assist the funeral arrangements.
About 200 people attended the second night of Nuamthong's funeral at Wat Bua Kwan yesterday. Among them were military and police officers, politicians from the Thai Rak Thai Party and National Human-Rights Commissioner Jaran Dithapichai.
Wreaths sent by the coup group, including Surayud and CNS chairman General Sonthi Boonyatrat-glin, were placed side-by-side with those sent by anti-coup and pro-democracy groups.
Boonchu read out Nuamthong's farewell letter found beside his body on Tuesday night.
Dr Sant Hathirat, representing pro-democracy organisations, read a statement declaring Nuamthong a "democracy martyr".
Funeral rites for Nuamthong will continue at Wat Bua Kwan today and on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The cremation will be held on Thursday.