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THAILAND: PM slaps gag order on himself

Thailand Prime Minister practices self-censorship to avoid media criticism

Bangkok Post
Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has decided to stop talking to reporters for seven days, after being bombarded with criticism of ``government policies gone wrong''.

Mr Thaksin, known for his brusque counter-comments on government issues, yesterday informed reporters he wasn't going to speak with them for a week.

A source said the premier's decision to act dumb was a departure from his style of forceful, on-the-spot rebuttals against irritable remarks directed at him or his government.

The source said Mr Thaksin might be feeling compelled to stop putting himself in the line of fire.

The prime minister has of late been held in ridicule over a number of ``bravado actions''.

The first involved the inaugural AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Monday. What promised to be a fantastic flight had to make an emergency landing 20 minutes after take-off. The embarrassment was blamed on a malfunctioning wing flap indicator.

The second was the alleged nepotism surrounding the appointment of Pol Lt-Gen Priawpan Damapong to deputy police chief.

The highly coveted post places Mr Thaksin's brother-in-law in line for the position of police chief.

Mr Thaksin also ignited a time-bomb by throwing his support behind the proposal to replace the election of grass-roots leaders with a system of appointment.

This move drew brickbats even from government insiders, who slammed the initiative as a blatant insult to the principle of decentralisation of power.

In addition, the decision by an arbitration panel to reduce the 25.2-billion-baht concession fee for the iTV television channel put Mr Thaksin in the hot seat because his family's Shin Corp is a major shareholder of iTV.

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