Thaksin-Linked TV Broadcaster to Shut Down After 15 Years

(Bloomberg) -- Voice TV, a Thai media company owned by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s family, said it will cease operations next month and lay off about 200 employees including journalists.

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Voice TV is known for its television channel with programs reaching about 22 million households nationwide through digital terrestrial, satellite, and cable TV, according to its website. Its online news platform boasts more than five million followers on Facebook and YouTube each.

The broadcaster has weathered many political storms since the 2014 coup that ousted the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s younger sister. Throughout the years under junta chief-turned-premier Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s rule, Voice TV services were suspended several times by the country’s telecoms regulator or courts because of its politically outspoken content.

“Executives and shareholders have assessed the business and the industry crisis,” Voice TV said in a statement on Friday. “There are many digital platforms that can continue social missions, while democracy is only taking roots.”

The company said it will ensure employees are compensated according to the law.

Media is one of the influential Shinawatra clan’s business interests, which range from hotels to healthcare and golf courses. Thaksin is considered the de facto leader of the ruling Pheu Thai party, now helmed by his daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra. The party leads the coalition government of Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin.

Thaksin served two terms as Thailand’s prime minister from 2001 until he was ousted in 2006, and fled the country in 2008. He returned to Thailand last year after 15 years in exile, in a move seen as signs of his reconciliation with the royalist establishment that had loathed him.

He was sentenced to eight years in jail on corruption charges on his return but the sentence was later commuted to one year by King Maha Vajiralongkorn. He was freed on parole after six months, which he spent in a hospital and not behind bars.

READ: Why Thaksin Made Peace With Thai Establishment Foes: QuickTake

Voice TV started airing in 2009, just after Thaksin fled. Yingluck also fled Thailand to escape corruption cases she said were politically motivated. She still lives in exile.

(Updates with Voice TV statement and rewrites throughout.)

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