Thailand's Military Forces Total Media Blackout Amid Coup

Thai soldiers stand guard in front of the Democracy Monument after the coup Thursday, May 22, 2014 in Bangkok, Thailand. Thailand's military seized power Thursday in a bloodless coup, dissolving the government, suspending the constitution and dispersing groups of protesters from both sides of the country's political divide who had gathered in Bangkok and raised fears of a violent showdown.

Hours after it declared a coup d'etat, Thailand's military instituted a media blackout on Thursday.
"All radio and television stations, satellite and cable, must stop normal programming and broadcast army content until told otherwise," an army spokesman said in a televised statement.


Thai Army Chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, center, and other high ranking Thai officers are shown on television announcing the military takeover in Bangkok, Thailand Thursday, May 22, 2014.
The military initiated martial law earlier this week before officially announcing a coup and suspending the constitution. Media channels showed a still image of Thai military symbols along with the phrase "National peace and Order Maintaining Council" while playing soft music, according to various reports.

Soldiers also visited the offices of The Nation, a Thai english-language magazine, according to pictures that emerged on Twitter.

In statement released on Thursday afternoon Eastern time, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was "disappointed" with the Thai military for suspending its constitution and concerned about its attempt to suppress press freedom:
I am also concerned that media outlets have been shut down. I urge the restoration of civilian government immediately, a return to democracy, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, such as press freedoms. The path forward for Thailand must include early elections that reflect the will of the people.
This is Thailand's 19th coup since 1932 and not the first time the military has tried to suppress the flow of information during times of political turbulence.

During the 2010 military crackdown, Facebook and Twitter were blocked after the government took control of TV stations. Reporters claimed they were being targeted by during the unrest. Two journalists — freelance photojournalist Fabio Polenghi and TV journalist Nelson Rand — died from gunshot wounds.
The recent coup has been relatively peaceful with no reports of journalist casualties. The army has assured the safety of foreigners, but said they must abide by the 10 p.m. curfew.
Social media has not been blocked, but some media in the country say they have been warned not to criticize the media.

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