The Nation’s intricate plot story

11 08 2009

The Nation newspaper has long been vehemently anti-Thaksin Shinawatra. There was some reason for this, with the paper and some of its journalists being harassed when the Thaksin government was in power. But often some of the columnists at the paper have adopted dubious tactics to attack Thaksin as the man they hate and those they see as supporting him. Some of their stories and columns would not qualify as journalism; personal attacks and unsupported allegations have been too common.

Now the paper seems to be seeking grand conspiracies and trying to engender fear amonst its readers. PPT wishes to comment on The Nation’s editorial of 10 August 2009 (“Suchinda’s objection tips balance of power”) not because we believe it but because it is arguably the oddest turn yet in the “royal pardon” petition. PPT should add that we have seen no evidence that would support the allegations made.

Late last week, General Suchinda Kraprayoon attacked the red shirt petition during his 76th birthday celebrations. Suchinda was the leader of the military coup that ousted the elected government of Chatichai Choonhavan in February 1991. After the elections in March 1992, Suchinda – who had said he wouldn’t take the position – was suddenly nominated at prime minister. Protests against the military and Suchinda escalated, culminating in the events known as “Black May,” when dozens – some say hundreds – of unarmed people were shot when soldiers opened fire on demonstrators.

Now The Nation considers Suchinda an impeccable ally in the fight against Thaksin. The editorial says approvingly, “He made it clear he did not agree with their attempt to mobilise seven million signatures nationwide as part of a campaign to seek a royal pardon for Thaksin Shinawatra. Suchinda’s words are crucial, coming at a time when political polarisation in this country has heightened to the point it could break up into another episode of violence. It should be noted that Suchinda, who lost his power in the 1992 May tragedy, still musters enormous influence in politics. He still has the ears of most of the military top brass. By voicing his objection against the red-shirt protesters’ signature campaign, Suchinda has tipped the balance of power away from the red camp…”.

The May 1992 massacre in The Nation’s revision is now a “tragedy” and Suchinda is somehow a figure who is uniting and not “polarizing.”

Then the editorialist begins constructing a grand conspiracy. Not only is Thaksin conspiring, but so is “the blue camp, led by General Pravit Wongsuwan and Army Chief General Anupong Paochinda.” This is quite a claim!

Further, “The red camp and the blue camp have formed an alliance at this critical juncture, where a behind-the-scenes power play is being exerted at full force. The police force belongs to the red camp, while about half of the military force back the blue camp. Except for the Democrats, most of the politicians in the House of Representatives either support the red camp or the blue camp.”

So it is that “Sondhi Limthongkul’s yellow camp now feels largely relieved by General Suchinda’s fresh move. So does Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who also has some breathing room to manoeuvre.” So it is Abhisit and Sondhi against the combined forces of red and blue evil for the “blue and red camps had threatened to bring the Abhisit government down if [police chief] Patcharawat were to be sacked.”

And continuing The Nation’s attack on Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, who “has acted as a link between the Democrats and the red and blue camps,” his role is characterized as so perplexing “that nobody is certain which side he is on now. Increasingly, Suthep will be isolated from his party as Abhisit seeks to become his own man.”

The Nation says that the “situation remains intense in all camps. Nobody dares to breathe.”

Evidence for this alleged conspiracy? “General Anupong earlier showed his position by saying that as a military adviser to His Majesty the King, he had no opinion on the royal petition drive on behalf of Thaksin.” That’s it, but then it is also added that “ General Surayuth Chulnanont, former prime minister and now member of the Privy Council, also brushed aside this question by saying he had no opinion.” Is Surayud also of questionable loyalty?

The Nation editorialists observes that “Only General Phichit Kulavanitr, another member of the Privy Council, came out strongly against the red-shirted protesters’ petition drive. He blasted the red shirts for their attempts to politicise the monarchy for their own interests.”

Any more evidence? Yes, says the Nation: The outcome of the investigation into the assassination attempt against Sondhi “has uncovered the suspects as belonging to some prominent members of the red camp and the blue camp. Of course, both camps would exercise all power at their disposal, on the ground and underground, to block the police investigation. Many of their prominent members could go to jail as a result of this case.”

What about the petition? According to the editorial, this is “equally threatening to the political stability…”, as red shirts “plan to come out in tens of thousands to make their way in fanfare to the Grand Palace to submit the petition before mobilising a rally at Sanam Luang. We all know with a good conscience that this petition is morally wrong and legally wrong…. The act of seeking a royal pardon for Thaksin is no more than an outright challenge to the integrity of the Thai Monarchy.”

The Nation then claims that this situation “is designed to repeat the red shirts’ attempt at a People’s Revolution on Songkran Day of April 13, 2009.” They failed then, but “Now they are regrouping and planning another attack or another attempt at the People’s Revolution for the benefit of one individual.” This is incendiary speculation and part of the fear tactics that the conservative forces have been using.

So if we are to believe the Nation, in the context of the Thaksin petition and the turmoil in politics:

Suthep is a traitor.
The army chief, who was a 2006 coup leader and who crushed the Songkhran Uprising, is a traitor.
Surayud is likely to be a traitor.
Sondhi and Abhisit are aligned for the side of good against evil.
The blue shirts, who attacked the red shirts in Pattaya in April, are now allied with the reds.
That must make Newin Chidchob, the man behind the blue shirts, a double traitor because he deserted Thaksin in December but must be going back.
The red shirts have a plan for People’s Revolution beginning 17 August.

As noted above, PPT has no grounds for believing that the Nation newspaper editorialist has any real evidence for the claims made. We can readily admit that conspiracies are a regular feature of Thai politics, so there may be something more than rumor and innuendo going on. Perhaps, maybe… but does this an editorial make?

Even if the Nation editorialist somehow turned out to be a superlative astrologer, serious questions need to be asked of this style of “journalism.” The use of a general with blood on his hands for moral support, the exhortation to fear and the failure to provide credible evidence for such remarkable claims leaves PPT wondering why The Nation allows its “journalism” to descend to tabloid status. The Nation was once a newspaper that wanted to be taken seriously.



One response

21 10 2009
Suthep the Traitor « Asian Correspondent

[…] is the tipping point in objections to a pardon), Political Prisoners in Thailand offers some interesting commentary and then distills the basic theory of the editorial:Suthep is a traitor.The army chief, who was a […]