Thailand’s media under the military dictatorship is, at best, supine. But that isn’t good enough for The Dictator. As we posted yesterday, General Prayuth Chan-ocha reckons Thailand under the junta is a 99% democracy. It seems the missing 1% is the media. If he could get them totally compliant then 100% (Thai-style) “democracy” would seem complete.
In two Khaosod reports, the remaining 1% gets a spray of vitriol from the self-appointed prime minister.
In the first report, Thailand’s military boss has gotten rather testy and then exploded when he referred to media reports about slavery on Thailand’s fishing boats. This is not a new story. Allegations and proof of slave-like working conditions in fisheries have been available for more than two decades.
Rather than address the issue seriously, The Dictator attempts to cover it up and, well, dictate.
He demanded that the media “not to report on human trafficking without considering how the news will affect the country’s seafood industry and reputation abroad.”
Protecting Sino-Thai tycoons is bread and butter (Mercedes and Patek Philippe) for the military; they have been protecting and promoting them for five decades or so.
General Prayuth stated:
The media should consider the impact the news will have on the country…. It may cause problems, and affect national security…. If this news gets widely published, [it could raise] problems of human trafficking and IUU [Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing].”
Gen. Prayuth warned that if any news reports cause Thailand’s seafood industry to loses customers, “the people who published the news will have to be held responsible.”
Ah, that’s what “national security” is: protecting slavery and profits. You can bet that generals are involved in the industry through wives, siblings and corruption cash.
Prayuth went on to say that his military junta is going to “summon the Channel 3 journalist, Thapanee Ietsrichai, who has been reporting on the plight of Thai men languishing on the slave ships.” He declared: “Let me tell you now, Thapanee will have to come see officials…”.
That will ensure 100% democracy!
In the second report, the newspaper reproduces a transcript of Prayuth flying off the handle:
Reporter: There has been a talk about a possible shift in the Cabinet, especially the team working on economic issues.
Gen. Prayuth: … Join hands together, because today there is a good opportunity now that this government has entered [the scene]. Unite people to solve problems, unite all of the sides. Don’t end up criticizing everything, as though this is a normal government. Don’t you understand that?
You want freedom, I gave you freedom. Everything. I never forbid anything [see above]. No one else gave it to you like this. I will wait a little while and see, about the working of the media…. The media makes society divided…. The reason why I am talking now is not because I want to remind you of your debt of gratitude. All the things I have done are for the Thai people. If anyone doesn’t understand, they are not Thais. That’s all. The media has to help. From now on, I will keep my eyes on all media [agencies] and, if necessary, I will use my power on everyone. I am not saying you cannot criticize me. You can criticize me, but you have to have some understanding. Today there are still the orders from the NCPO. Have you forgotten that? Have you? It’s been too relaxing for you, maybe?
Reporter: If the media reports divisive news, will any action be taken against them?
Gen. Prayuth: … Let’s see whether that damn media agency causes divisions. If you criticize generally, I don’t mind that. A little of criticism, I can accept that. But if you say every day that I am a failure, how the hell can I be a failure? The previous things were even worse than a failure. Now that I am here to fix it, things will get better from that failure, of course. Learn to think like that.
Reporter: So will you shut down the media?
Gen. Prayuth: Don’t pick a fight with me, don’t make me go to war with the media.
Reporter: So what will be the punishment?
Gen. Prayuth: Execution, maybe? You ask silly questions. Just don’t do actions [that warrant punishment]. Be cautious…. I will use a dog-headed execution device. I will deal with the media. But I still love them. Please, help me out. Don’t make excuses for me, please just help me build love and unity. Now that we are here, let’s change a crisis into an opportunity. Don’t make a crisis into another crisis.
Reporter: Why don’t you see these criticisms as suggestions?
Gen. Prayuth: Well, go look at all this criticism from the media. Is it constructive? …
Gen. Prayuth: If I arrive late, I will inform His Majesty the Sultan that it is because of all of you. I am not angry today. I’m just in bad mood.
Prayuth then decided to criticize Matichon and Manager.
Gen. Prayuth: Where’s the reporter from Matichon group? Go take a look. Write your news well. Don’t write news that supports the other side too much. Let me tell you, in the previous government Matichon sold really well in the Ministry of Interior Affairs. Dig it up. It’s because the Ministry of Interior Affairs ordered people to buy only Matichon, so it hurt the businesses of other papers….
Gen. Prayuth: Why make a big fuss? I don’t understand. They want this. They want that. Especially Manager. I can’t read a single page they write. Are they all mad? They write about nonsensical things every day. What do they want, huh? They are so intelligent. Come on, meung [Thai insult], come administer the country. Come serve as MP. Damn [ไอ้] Chatchawarn, damn Sophon [Manager columnists]. These people. This government says this, like this, if they want to criticize me, go ahead. I can take it. But I am a human. I’m not a Prime Minister who is not a human. I also have feelings. I have a life and feelings.
100% democracy is The Dictator’s fascism.
Update: This is the self-appointed leader of Thailand in action, displaying qualities that would be certifiable and simply unacceptable anywhere but a dictatorship. If readers make it to the execution remark, at about 12 minutes, there’s no smile.