Thailand's Military Leaders Order Free World Cup TV Coverage

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The country's ruling junta has instructed TV regulators to guarantee that local soccer fans won't have to pay a cent to watch every single World Cup game.

Expanding its "happiness campaign" to boost support among the public, Thailand's military leaders have ordered the country's TV regulators to ensure that all World Cup matches are broadcast in the country for free.

The move follows other recent gimmicks to bolster allegiance to the military junta, such as free haircuts and concert tickets.

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After months of protests and political paralysis in Bangkok, the Thai military overthrew the democratically elected government in a coup last month.

The military leaders have issued a slew of restrictions on public gatherings to prevent protests of the takeover, and most of Thailand remains under a strict curfew, first set at 10 p.m. and later moved to midnight. Several pro-democracy protest leaders have been detained.

But the military remains bent on winning over the masses. It has adopted several of the populist programs of the deposed Puea Thai Party government, including subsidizing farmers, boosting infrastructure spending and instituting price caps on basic foods.

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Local broadcaster RS Plc had already purchased the rights to all World Cup games and according to local reports was only planning to allow a third of them to be carried on Thailand's free-to-air channels. To see the remaining games, viewers would have to purchase a decoder. The cost of the device is negligible to Bangkok's urban middle classe but well beyond the reach of the rural poor, who make up the majority of the population.

Under the military's orders, RS will have to work out a deal for all of the games to be shown for free. The company is claiming $21.5 million in compensation.