The Thai Prime Minister, who typically avoids media attention, has visited the Top News newsroom for the first time to commemorate the far-right outlet's second anniversary as the general election draws near.
Inviting viewers to watch Top News, Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha said that it "presents the news based on facts" and "analysis based on principles," despite its hosts' misinformation on Ukraine when covering news for the military-owned Channel 5 and boycott campaign against its sponsors due to biased coverage of the pro-democracy protests.
It is a rare move from the former junta leader who has favoured one-way communication through press releases, online posts, state-run broadcasts, and who frequently gave short, inconsistent, and erratic responses to reporters.
Gen. Prayut, who was officially unaffiliated with any political party for eight years, joined the freshly created Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party last month in an effort to maintain his position as the general election draws near.
If he wins the next election, he will only be able to serve for two years, as the Constitutional Court ruled that the eight-year limit began in 2017, when the constitution drafted by his enablers went into effect, despite assuming power through a military coup in 2014.
Gen. Prayut's status faced growing questions due to an apparent split with his aide, Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, who now leads the ruling Phalang Pracharat Party, while other parties in the government coalition are now full-on in their election campaigns.
Letter from Princess
Top News held its second anniversary event on Wednesday 1 Feb. Not only the Prime Minister attended, but also other rival politicians including Anutin Charnvirakul, the Minister of Public Health, and Chadchart Sittipunt, the Governor of Bangkok.
Kanok Ratwongsakul, a Top News host, revealed on its morning news program that Princess Chulabhorn, the youngest sister of King Vajiralongkorn, sent a letter to congratulate them on their second anniversary.
"Inside the station, there are portraits of King Rama X and the Queen Mother," said Kanok "But at the front there is a portrait of His Majesty's younger sister, Princess Chulabhorn, because Her Royal Highness sent our station a happy birthday letter, so we must hold a ceremony to receive it."
In May 2022, Top News was among the most outspoken critics of a video advertisement on Lazada that many royalists saw as mocking of the disabled and a member of the royal family, who the royalists did not name. Lazada apologized for the inappropriate content.
Three influencers who appeared in the video were arrested and released on bail. They were charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act and the lèse majesté law, which forbids defamation of the King, Queen, Heir Apparent, and Regent but does not extend to the Thai princesses.
The Royal Thai Army (RTA), together with the government and royal project enterprises such as the Wansook shops, Doi Tung, Doikham, and Royal Chitralada Project, announced a temporary boycott against using the Lazada's platform due to the controversy. The RTA lifted the ban after one month.
Top News founder and head Sonthiyan Chuenruthainaitham was a right-wing activist and a media entrepreneur whose support helped lead to the killing of red shirt protesters in 2010, the military coup in 2014, and the violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters in 2020-2021