After failing to agree to a new long-term contract with Thailand’s military government, BBC World Service stopped broadcasting shortwave radio programs from a transmitter north of Bangkok at the start of the year.
A Thai government spokesman said the BBC decided to drop its effort for a seven-year lease agreement on the transmitter.
“I would like to inform you that, the Public Relations Department owns the premises and the negotiating counterpart is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. BBC told us a couple of days ago or so that it would not want to have a new contract,” Lt. Gen. Sansern Kaewkamnerd told BenarNews in a phone interview.
Despite the shutdown, Thai residents have access to BBC News content through the broadcaster’s Thai Service website that went online in November 2016.
The website created controversy shortly after its launch by publishing a profile of King Maha Vajiralongkorn on the day he assumed the throne on Dec. 1 following the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, in mid-October.
Two days after the king’s ascension, Jatupat “Pai” Boonpattararaksa, a student activist from Khon Kaen University, was charged under the nation’s strict royal defamation law for allegedly sharing the profile on Facebook.
Jatupat, the first civilian charged with royal defamation under King Vajiralongkorn’s reign was indicted on Feb. 10 and will face a closed-door trial. Only people involved in the case will be allowed to attend hearings.
BBC officials did not comment on the flap, but Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the website’s coverage of Thailand was an obstacle in discussions around renewing a lease for the transmitter.
“Despite extensive negotiations, we have been unable to reach an agreement to re-commence transmissions. Given the financial constraints faced by the whole of the BBC, we have reluctantly decided to shut the site,” the BBC said in a Wednesday statement about the Jan. 1 shuttering of its Thai transmitter.
Full story: BenarNews
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