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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 13:54 GMT
BBC Thai service ends broadcasts
By Clare Harkey
BBC East Asia editor

The BBC's Thai language service made its final broadcast on Friday after more than 60 years on air.

The BBC World Service announced three months ago that the operation was to be cut as part of a major restructuring exercise.

The BBC said the money could be spent better, in part to set up a new Arabic-language television service.

A BBC spokesman said the organisation was extremely proud of the Thai service's record of service.

He stressed that the corporation was not abandoning Thailand.

The BBC began broadcasting in Thailand in 1941. By 1973, when students rose up against the military dictatorship running the country, BBC Thai was the only independent broadcaster able to be heard in Thailand. The service brought news of the bloody suppression of the uprising.

'Low impact'

Before the closure, 18 staff members in London and Bangkok were involved in broadcasting just over an hour of news and current affairs daily, as well as running the service's own website.

According to the BBC, the programmes had a total listenership of 570,000 people weekly.

But the BBC said the service had a low impact in an increasingly competitive domestic market. The BBC said it would now target opinion formers and decision makers through its English language programming instead.

Since the closure plan was announced, some 5,000 people in Thailand have signed a protest petition which was delivered to the British embassy in Bangkok in December.

Lobbying of British MPs is also taking place and the service's supporters have their own website, www.ilovebbcthai.com.

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