Dan Rivers, CNN International Correspondent
17 Jan 2006, CNN In the Field

Well, our tussle with the military junta here is almost becoming comical.

CNN’s signal into Thailand is being blocked whenever our exclusive interview with deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is broadcast. Yet, the entire transcript has been carried on the front pages of all the papers here in Thailand, so quite why it is being censored on TV is mystifying me. Whenever the signal is blocked, a montage of photos of various Hollywood celebrities is put out on CNN instead. My cameraman cruelly suggested most viewers would prefer to see Brad Pitt to Dan Rivers any day of the week!

We’ve also become increasingly concerned about a number of sinister phone calls to our office here in Bangkok, with callers repeatedly hanging up and asking for information on the whereabouts of my Thai producer. Several of our phone calls from the office have also been mysteriously cut off. It smacks of an intimidation campaign – of course I have no proof of that, just a journalistic hunch. But it’s clear our interview has caused waves.

We interviewed Thaksin in Singapore, where he also met a senior politician. Our interview threw his visit to Singapore into the limelight – now the military regime in Thailand is furious with the Singaporeans – they’ve cancelled an official visit of the Singaporean foreign minister and cancelled a civil service exchange programme, because they dared to have a meeting with the deposed prime minister of Thailand…oh and because they didn’t prevent CNN from interviewing him there too. The Singaporean Ambassador has also been summoned to government house here for a reprimand. It’s not quite war, but it’s certainly a jolly angry spat.

Its ironic that the undemocratic, authoritarian junta here in Thailand is trying to take the moral high ground with Singapore – itself not exactly a paragon of freedom.

In my opinion, it all bodes ill for Thailand’s return to democracy. The military junta had promised to lift martial law by the end of 2006 – but now we’re in 2007, and martial law remains in place, CNN is being censored, local TV stations are self-censoring their output and there is a growing climate of anger, trepidation and fear…especially in the CNN office, where the anonymous, threatening calls keep coming!

21 Jan update: Dan Rivers setting the record straight on the Thaksin interview.

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