The chief of TV Channel 5 was today sacked, less than two weeks after he met the Russian ambassador to Thailand to discuss news cooperation between the army-run broadcaster and Russian news agencies.
However, General Rangsi Kitiyanasap insisted that he resigned on his own accord. “I submitted my resignation,” he said citing “personal reason” for his decision.
It is not immediately clear if his removal was related to his initiative for news exchange with Russia.
The move came one day after a news programme on Channel 5 was interrupted mid-air while the anchor was introducing a news story on the situation in Ukraine.
The segment was immediately replaced with a commercial.
Gen Rangsi was quoted by a news website as admitting that there was an order to black out the news report “because we think the situation in Ukraine is no longer interesting.”
The incident was immediately followed by a news report that Galaxy Multimedia Corporation which was contracted to produce news programmes for Channel 5 was withdrawing from the station.
The order to remove Gen Rangsi was reportedly issued by Army Commander-in-Chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewthae in his capacity as chairman of the channel’s board of directors.
The channel is a business arm of the Royal Thai Army and describes itself as a public broadcaster for national security.
Gen Rangsi had a much-publicized meeting with Russian Ambassador to Thailand Yevgeny Tomikhin two weeks ago during which they discussed news exchange between Channel 5 and Russian news agencies.
In an interview with Thai PBS, the general explained that he wanted to have more diverse news sources on the crisis in Ukraine for Channel 5.
“We have been relying too much on western news agencies. How can we tell whether what they report are true? We need to have balance in our news,” he said.
Gen Rangsi later met Ukraine’s Chargé d’affaires Oleksandr Lysak also to discuss news exchange with Ukraine in what he described to Thai PBS as an effort by Channel 5 to be balanced in its reporting on the war in Ukraine.