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Thai soccer fans to watch World Cup games for free

BANGKOK--Thai soccer fans can watch the whole World Cup at home for free thanks to an intervention by the junta to spread “happiness” after a military coup last month.

A dispute over broadcasting rights had threatened to leave Thais without free access to the majority of the games from football's showpiece tournament — kicking off Thursday in Brazil.

But with the opening ceremony just hours away the television regulator agreed to pay up to US$13 million to local entertainment company RS to share its live broadcast rights to all 64 matches with public channels.

The move came after the Thai junta pressed the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission to resolve the issue.

“RS must broadcast all 64 matches,” said commissioner Suthiphon Thaweechaiyagarn. “Our goal is to allow all Thais to watch the games.”

RS, which initially agreed to share rights for 22 games with free TV, was not immediately available for comment.

Lieutenant General Chatudom Titthasiri, head of army-run Channel 5, which will now broadcast 38 matches, said the payment was justified as “happiness for the whole country is more important than money”.

“We hope that all Thais will be happy,” he told reporters.

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