Sunday, September 20, 2009

Moments of nationalist stupidity

* All images copyright *
Red shirts at Government House February 24th 2009.

From the Bangkok Post titled Govt launches Thai Unity project:

"The government has organised activities to promote unity and patriotism among Thai people, and one of them is to sing the national anthem together," Mr Abhisit said.

I was going to write a post questioning what depths of nationalist stupidity that would envision that the promotion of an increasingly Orwellian nationalism would actually solve Thailand's political turmoil.

"PPT doesn’t think that Abhisit is as naive and as stupid as this all sounds. Rather, we feel that the emphasis on right-wing, conservative and nationalist strategies of the dark past is a reflection of the views of his strongest backers. His position as prime minister, and within the Democrat Party, is insecure. Hence, Abhisit has fallen back on the support of important and highly conservative and royalist backers within the party and at higher levels and they urge these measures that they believe have been successful in the past."

It is hard to fathom how the use of nationalism or even ISOC's bizarrely dumb "moso" campaign or the comically futile peace activist campaign to 'Stop Hurting the Country' are all raised as solutions to the country's political impasse.

When something is broken, it is better to address the problem rather than to preach about 'loving the nation', practicing moderation, or the waste-of-a-white-shirt campaign to 'stop hurting the country".

While 'moso' and the peace activists are simply wasting their own time and performing something akin to victimless crime, howling for increased nationalism is certainly more worrying.

PAD's violent antics at Preah Vihear are a prime example of the danger of nationalism.

Nationalism simply sharpens distinctions between opposing groups into a justification for violence.

As the government and its right-wing conservative backers sharpen their version of nationalism to exclude those who oppose them, the justification for violence moves ever closer.

So, at 8am and 6pm, the following blood thirsty lyrics in the national anthem will by passionately sung:

Thailand is the unity of Thai blood and body,
The whole country belongs to the Thai people,
Maintaining thus far for the Thai,
All Thais intend to unite together,
Thais love peace, but do not fear to fight,
They will never let anyone threaten their independence,
They will sacrifice every drop of their blood to contribute to the nation
Will serve their country with pride and prestige-full of victory.
Chai Yo (Cheers)

The reds in Royal Plaza

The reds in Royal Plaza. September 19th.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Thai Public Split Over Charter Amendment

Media Advisory
For 16 September 2009


, Thailand
– Do Thai voters believe a charter amendment would lead to national reconciliation? How much say should the public have over the amendment process? To ensure that opinions from Thai citizens are represented during this time of political turmoil, The Asia Foundation will release the results of its nationwide survey conducted in 26 provinces that gauge the national mood toward amending the constitution, election reform, interest in politics, and more.

The Asia Foundation’s latest survey, Constitutional Reform and Democracy in Thailand: A National Survey of the Thai Electorate, reveals Thai public opinions on issues relevant to the current debate on constitutional reform. Conducted through face-to-face interviews with 1,500 respondents nationwide, the timely survey allows lawmakers, politicians, academics and the media to assess the process of democratization and measure Thai voters’ knowledge of and attitudes toward democracy and the nation’s key institutions.

The survey results will also shed light on key trends and changing attitudes of Thai voters, providing compelling insights into controversial issues such as Article 237 of the 2007 Constitution, electoral reforms, as well as political amnesty and impunity.

Survey results will be unveiled at a press conference. The discussion will be conducted in Thai and English. Cameras are welcome. The discussion will be on the record.

WHEN: 9.30 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WHO: Presentation of key findings of survey by Mr. Tim Meisburger,
Director of Elections and Political Processes Program, The Asia Foundatio

Guest Speakers: Associate Professor Surichai Wun’Gaeo
Director of Social Research Institute, Chulalongkorn University

Dr. Thawilwadee Bureekul
Director of Research & Development Office, King Prajadhipok’s Institute

WHERE: Saladang Room (2nd Floor)Dusit Thani Hotel Bangkok
946 Rama IV Road, Bangkok 10500

About The Asia Foundation

The Asia Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to the development of a peaceful, prosperous, just, and open Asia-Pacific region. The Foundation has maintained a resident office in Thailand since 1954. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Thaksin on state media - Update


Jom, reporting from Maigan district of Pattani in August 2009.

The following is the English language statement from Jom Petpradab who conducted the controversial interview with former Prime Minister Thaksin on his radio program on Sunday. I am trying to find a link to the audio file now.

For back ground, see my previous post on this topic.

*Full disclosure: I helped Jom write this English language statement.

From: Jom Petpradab
Regarding: Thai media, freedom of speech, and freedom to information are under threat in Thailand by a government that is robbing the people of their rights and freedoms.

My name is Jom Petpradab and I have been a working journalist in Thailand for more than 20 years in newspaper, radio, and television media. On Sunday morning, September 6th, 2009 while I was hosting my radio program, “Exclusive with Jom Petpradab”, I received a live call from former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra who was in Dubai. He was interested in giving me an interview because the month previous I had contacted his personal lawyer requesting an interview. Before the interview started, I informed my audience that Thaksin was on the phone, that I was conducting the interview as an unbiased journalist. I reminded the audience that I am not a supporter of the former Prime Minister, was not interested in being used as an outlet for propaganda, and simply wanted my audience to be able to hear his opinion on the many accusations revolving around him. Ultimately, my motivation is to help my audience and the Thai nation better understand the political crisis that our country is embroiled in. Essentially, I was doing my job as a journalist.

My interview with Thaksin lasted for 40 minutes and I conducted it ethically, without favoritism or prejudice, and exercised proper journalistic integrity. For example, I asked him why he does not resign from politics to help ease the political crisis, whether he is loyal or wants to harm the monarchy, why he doesn’t come back to Thailand to accept the criminal convictions against him, whether he smuggled funds from the country, and how he was funding his business and political interests while abroad. The interview, in Thai, can be found at the Prachatai website here .

A key question asked, and indeed a fundamental question for our country, is how we can negotiate our current political crisis and reconcile the conflict. While I am a journalist and have conducted my interview with proper journalistic ethics, I am still a citizen and hope that we can find a solution to political conflict without bloodshed. Thaksin, love him or hate him, is at the center of this crisis. He is not only a legitimate news maker but he is a central figure to the crisis and therefore his opinion on how to negotiate this conflict is essential. To this end, I asked Thaksin “The whole country, even red and yellow, wants peace, why don’t you call the Prime Minister or talk to the government to find a way to reconcile this conflict?”

While I was conducting my interview with Thaksin, Sathit Wongnongpoey a Minister attached to the Prime Minister’s Office, called the president of MCOT radio to demand to know why he would allow Thaksin on a government radio station. He claimed Thaksin should not be allowed on government radio because his is a fugitive, has tried to attack the Privy Council, and has challenged the authority of the judicial system. He ordered the MCOT president to report to him within 24 hours to explain why MCOT was not following government policy for media not to incite political unrest. Reporters at MCOT are now in fear of doing their jobs and feel that they must present favorable, unquestioning coverage of the government or face punishment.

While press freedom, including government controlled media, is protected by Article 46 of the Thai constitution it is clear that the Thai media is unable to exercise its constitutionally guaranteed rights. In short, Thai media is not free and is subject to considerable governmental control. This is not simply a problem under the Premiership of Abhisit, but is part of a long history of restrictions on media freedom in Thailand. While Thaksin was Prime Minister he tried to intimidate the press though costly lawsuits or through direct ownership of media outlets. I had trouble with him while trying to interview his political opponents at the time. After the 2006 coup, the junta first threatened to have me fired for airing an interview with a taxi driver who was protesting the loss of democracy and I was finally fired after trying to air an interview with Thaksin immediately after the 2007 election. My difficulties trying exercise free and fair reporting are not unique but are representative of the whole profession which has suffered from a lack of freedom and persistent government interference.

What has happened to me is simply an illustration of the lack of media freedom and trouble with government controlled media. Thai media, freedom of speech, and freedom to information are under threat in Thailand. The government is robbing the Thai people of their rights and freedoms and are prosecuting journalist who are trying to do their jobs.

Since my interview, I have had to resign from my position at MCOT because the government has placed substantial pressure on my coworkers and I do not want them to continue to work in fear of government reprisal.

Jom Petpradab

Contact Information:
Jom Petpradab

Monday, September 7, 2009

Thaksin on state media

Portraits of the evil one for sale outside Government House 2009.

From the Bangkok Post titled: Broadcaster broadsided for airing Thaksin interview

"State-run media company MCOT Plc is coming under fire after its radio station broadcast an interview with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in which he said he was ready to negotiate with all sides of politics.

Thaksin gave the interview yesterday on the radio programme Exclusive by Chom (sic )Phetpradab which airs on MCOT's FM 100.5, upsetting Deputy Prime Minister Sathit Wongnongtoey, who is in charge of state media.

Mr Sathit questioned how Thaksin's interview was allowed to go to air on a state radio station".

While Mr Sathit is questioning how Thaksin's interview was on a state radio news program, I think the real question is; why has Thaksin NOT been on the state media?

I know the government and yellows like to make Thaksin out as the true evil one who seeks to destroy Thailand but that is, of course, political rhetoric.

What is a fact is that he is a legitimate news maker and it is a disgrace that the state media has barred him from the airwaves.

This is not a red or yellow issue, not a pro or anti-Thaksin issue, this is a press freedom issue.

Thaksin is the former Prime Minister, remains a political force, and is therefor a legitimate news maker.

I personally think Thaksin is a dirty lying scumbag, but if all dirty lying scumbags were barred from the news there would be almost no news from Government House and Parliament.

In the interview, the host asked Thaksin questions over his feelings towards the monarchy, over corruption, his unusual wealth, and whether he was concerned with harming the country by persisting in politics.

Considering these allegations are persistently leveled at Thaksin, this is legitimate news.

The radio host, Jom ("Chom" should really be spelled "Jom" as his name is จอม) Phetpradab, is not in the pro-Thaksin camp either. In fact, in next week's show - if not fired by then - he will be interviewing coup-maker Sonthi Boonyaratgalin.

Back in 2007, while working for TITV, Jom tried to air an interview with Thaksin for the same reasons. It was just after the elections and Thaksin's opinion on the PPP victory was legitimate news.

In 2007, Jom was fired for his efforts and it is likely to happen again.

And this highlights the sad reality of state controlled media, its not free or fair and only reports one side of the very complex political problems facing the country.