Gen Rangsee Kitiyanasap, president of the Royal Thai Army Radio and Television Station, aka TV Channel 5 (Photo from the station)
The head of army-owned TV Channel 5 is being replaced amid reports of controversial meetings and orders regarding news coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A source said on Tuesday that army commander-in-chief Gen Narongphan Jitkaewtae had ordered the replacement of Channel 5 president Gen Rangsee Kitiyanasap with Lt Gen Wisanti Sasrida, director of the Army Training Command, effective on April 7.
All three generals were members of Class 22 at the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School, and Gen Narongphan and Gen Rangsee have been close friends for over 40 years since then.
Lt Gen Wisanti was expected to run the military TV channel for six months, until his retirement in October.
Gen Rangsee said on Tuesday that he had not been sacked, because he sent his resignation letter to the army chief on Monday. He said he had personal reasons for tendering his resignation, effective April 7.
Asked if it stemmed from an order that the channel did not report news about the Russia-Ukraine war, Gen Rangsee said that depended on the judgment of the media.
Gen Rangsee had earlier assigned the pro-government Top News TV team to supply news content to Channel 5.
Recently he met the Russian ambassador to Thailand and signed an agreement on the channel’s news coverage of the war. He said he intended to ensure more balanced news, in comparison with reports by Western media.
Under the agreement, Channel 5 staff would verify reports with the Russian embassy and also present news from Russia.
This led to criticism of the neutrality of the channel. Gen Rangsee later promised the Ukrainian ambassador to Thailand that news coverage would be neutral.
However, sources said that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was concerned about the issue and ordered Channel 5 to refrain from covering news about the war.
On Monday, the team supplying news to Channel 5 was presenting a report about the war and its signal was abruptly disconnected. That led to speculation that the Top News team would withdraw from the channel at the end of this month.