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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK7574
2005-12-09 08:48:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

OLD FRIENDS, BAD DEALS, AND COMMUNITY RADIO: THE

Tags:   PHUM  PROP  SOCI  KPAO  TH 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 007574 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PROP SOCI KPAO TH
SUBJECT: OLD FRIENDS, BAD DEALS, AND COMMUNITY RADIO: THE
STORY OF THE REOPENING OF 92.25

REF: A. BANGKOK 5419


B. BANGKOK 7197



1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On December 1, Embassy Officers visited
controversial community radio station 92.25. Station
personnel reported that the station had started up operations
a week after the August raid (Reftel A) and was now
technically broadcasting their programs solely on the
Internet, which were then picked up by unaffiliated "allied
community radio stations" which broadcast their programs on
the 92.25 frequency. The station manager told Emboffs that he
believed the station would not be targeted so long as the
government was "preoccupied" with other issues. He also noted
that station's costs were borne by one sponsor- the troubled
Thai Petrochemical Industry Group (TPI). While the station
has become an important forum for opposition voices in
Thailand, it appears to be operating under the watchful
patronage of another former tycoon, Prachai Liewpairat, an
ally of Thaksin critic Sondhi Limthongkul. END SUMMARY

Pink Paper


--------------------------





2. (SBU) December 1, Pdoff and Poloff visited the new offices
of radio station 92.25 FM (Reftel A). The bare-bones
"station" consisted of a mostly empty floor of TPI's (Thai
Petrochemical Industry Group) Bangkok office building. A few
staff members were running the equipment, while the host of
the program airing during Emboff's visit was calling in his
show from home. The windows overlooking the street and on
the front door were covered with sheets of pink paper.
Station staff explained that they were concerned about "dark
forces peeking in" on their activities.



3. (SBU) Station Manager Somchai Meechane said the station
had resumed its Internet transmissions about a week after it
was raided and shut down on August 9. On September 10, 92.25
resumed radio broadcasts by feeding the Internet
transmissions to about ten "allied stations", which are
technically unaffiliated with 92.25 but broadcast on the
92.25 FM bandwidth. The station broadcasts 19 hours per day,
from 6 a.m. until 1 a.m. The station's schedule now includes
a variety of political programming including one-man talk
radio, call-in shows and interviews with prominent local
personalties. Somchai told Emboffs that all the "allied
stations" are located around Bangkok, except for one in Khon
Kaen. Somchai said that he believes these indirect
broadcasts will dissuade Thai authorities from harassing
them, at least in the short-term. Somchai also noted that
the government was "preoccupied" with other issues at the
moment and that the RTG might target the station again in the
future.

Follow the Money?


--------------------------





4. (SBU) Somchai confirmed to Emboffs that the station's

production costs were paid for entirely by their sole sponsor
-- plastics and cement conglomerate TPI. TPI went bankrupt
in the 1997 crash, and has since faced well-publicized,
long-standing debt problems. TPI's founder Prachai
Liewpairat -- who technically no longer controls his company
-- is reportedly quite close to government critic Sondhi
Limthongkul, with whom he had business dealings prior to


1997. When PM Thaksin founded TRT in 1999, he allegedly
promised both men that he would change Thailand's bankruptcy
laws to allow them to reassume control of their business
empires -- a promise that the PM failed to keep. The
relationship between these tycoons and Thaksin has since
soured. In early 2005, Prachai tried to bring in a Chinese
financial company to help bail out TPI. According to rumor,
Thaksin was instrumental in preventing this bailout from
happening. Soon after that, 92.25 began taking potshots at
the Prime Minister. Station manager Somchai said the station
had had no problems when it opened in March, and only began
having trouble with the Government when it started
broadcasting political programs in June.



6. (SBU) Sondhi Limthongkul's "The Manager" newspaper and
92.25 FM have settled into a cozy, symbiotic relationship.
"The Manager" and its website publicly advertise that Thais
should listen to his show live on 92.25. Meanwhile, the
station's anti-Thaksin slant is frequently complimentary and
sympathetic to Sondhi and his cause. (Reftel B)



7. (SBU) Note: Somchai, the station manager, is also
well-known in Bangkok journalist circles. In 1998, he was
fired from the Bangkok Post after 68 journalists filed a
petition with the Press Council, accusing him of taking
bribes from politician Suwat Liptapalop (now a TRT MP.) He
later left the Democrat-allied Naew Na newspaper after trying
to set up a deal to sell shares of the newspaper to "business
interests". He is said to maintain close links to the
Democrat Party.


8. (SBU) COMMENT. The interesting history of personal
relationships involving Thaksin, Sondhi and Prachai offers a
new perspective on the reasons for this "democratic"
opposition radio station's existence. Thailand lacks
independent and objective media; news sources that are
independent of the government are inevitably dependent on
someone. Despite its origins as a platform for a Thaksin
opponent with a personal axe to grind, 92.25 has played a
useful role, providing political dissenters with an
all-too-rare forum to express their views. Until the legal
and economic structure develops sufficiently to support more
impartial media, this is probably about the best we can
expect. END COMMENT.
BOYCE