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A Thai national media association urged the head of the military junta to understand the role of the media and not to act as a dictator when confronted with unpleasant news reports.   

The News Broadcasting Council of Thailand (NBCT) on Friday issued a statement to urge Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the junta’s leader and prime minister, to understand the role of the media as presenting news based on facts and warned that the PM should not express anger over news reports if he does not want to be seen as a dictator.

The statement was issued after Gen Prayut expressed anger and threatened to summon Thapanee Ietsrichaion, a journalist from Channel 3, who reported about the plight of Thai workers who were deceived into slave labour on Thai fishing boats in Indonesia waters.

The Prime Minister said that the news could cause Thailand’s seafood industry to lose business, so "the people who published the news will have to be held responsible," Khaosod English quoted Gen Prayut as saying.

In their statement, the NBCT pointed out that the presentation of facts about the plight of Thai labourers overseas is the role of the media and that the public and the government can criticise media news reporting constructively. However, the government should not intimidate members of the press and media outlets.

“The angry expressions and harsh words in public towards the work of the media might run the risk of people misunderstanding the PM to be a dictator, [who] does not accept criticism and questions, which is not good for the PM himself and the nation,” said the statement.

Upon hearing the news on slavery in the fishing industry last week, Prayut also referred to the previous elected administration, saying "the previous government never did anything about it, but today this government is doing everything."

On Saturday, Yingluck Shinawatra, the Pheu Thai Party PM in the previous elected government, challenged the junta leader’s claim on her Facebook page.

"Since I took office, we tried to address the issue and put into place a plan for more effective solutions. It paid off when Thailand was not downgraded to Tier-3 in the (US State Department's Trafficking in Persons) 2013 report,” wrote the ex-PM.

After the 2014 coup d’état, Thailand was downgraded from Tier-2 to Tier-3 in the 2014 US State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report.

Yingluck added that in order to solve the problem the government has to start first by acknowledging the problem. 

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