Damning Darunee or damning The Nation?

31 08 2009

In the 1 September 2009 issue of The Nation, columnist Avudh Panananda has an article entitled “Da Torpedo’s downfall a warning to the like-minded.” Regular readers will know that we have previously questioned this newspaper’s odd “journalism” that has also degenerated into propaganda.

In this article, Avudh takes up the situation of Darunee Charnchoensilpakul who was sentenced to 18 years in jail on lese majest charges on 28 August 2009 stating that he has found an “interesting” angle on the case. Avudh questions Darunee’s “outspokenness” and warns others who might be similarly outspoken.

Seemingly to know what happened in the closed court, Avudh argues that in “one of its arguments, her defence team contended Daranee’s remarks were of no consequence because she was in no position to make an impact deemed offensive to the monarchy.” Here Avudh adds that court rejected this argument and mentions her “foul and offensive remarks.” Notice the use of the word “foul” for it is used again.

Avudh jumps on this idea with considerable glee, wondering if this line of argument “might have touched a chord with people of like minds posting their insults against the monarchy via thousands of web boards.” It seems that as a monarchist, Avudh trawls the internet looking for the “political graffiti deemed offensive to the country’s revered institution.” The question for the observant Avudh is: “Are Internet vandals sharing the same thoughts as Daranee and acting foul-mouthed out of spite, since they see themselves as too marginalised to make a difference?”

Avudh becomes pop psychologist, wondering if this widespread hatred of the monarchy is a way of seeking fame: “The royal bashing may be the name of the game for fame seekers, whatever the cost.” Avudh doesn’t consider the idea that the law that had put Darunee away for 18 years might be the reason people posting their thoughts choose to be anonymous. Nor does Avudh consider the possibility that there are people who have real reasons for criticizing his beloved monarchy.

Avudh then has some details on Darunee’s ordinariness as a member of the Sino-Thai middle-class and as a journalist. If PPT was being pop psychologist we might ask if Avudh feels betrayed by someone like himself? He has trouble understanding, stating that there is “no clear explanation about her abrupt change nor about the financial backing for her advocacy.” Note the use of “financial backing”; here Avudh is insinuating the usual line that anyone who doesn’t agree with Avudh’s PAD-like views is a traitor in the pay of Thaksin Shinawatra.

Avudh’s incapacity to understand a different political perspective is displayed when he says that Darunee was opposed to the 2006 coup and the trampling of the 1997 Constitution: “She was among the first anti-coup groups to arrive at Sanam Luang and have a collection of rally sites set up a few short months after the coup.”

Avudh then claims that “she began to pepper her speeches with foul words, gaining notoriety as Da Torpedo. The underlying theme to her speeches was the alleged link between the coup and the Royal Palace, with chief royal adviser General Prem Tinsulanonda as the conduit.” Nothing wrong there, for The Nation itself made the point that royal support was critical for the success of the coup and the Bangkok Post military affairs reporter Wassana Nanuam (in the Bangkok Post on 21 September 2006, in an article entitled “Timing could not have been better, says army source”) stated that the “coup plot was known within a tight circle of people, among them Gen Prem Tinsulanonda … and his close aides…, Air Force Commander … Chalit Pukkasuk and Lt-Gen Anupong Paochinda…”.

But for Avudh, the problem is that Darunee “seemed, however, more intent on belching out foul words and curses instead of stating her case.” Avudh keeps saying that the speeches she made were “foul.” And, he claims that it was after she became “foul” that the red shirts accepted her and then she promoted “pro-Thaksin messages.” She also made “veiled attacks on the Royal Palace. Although she did not mention any names, her remarks were explicit and insulting.” Avudh then says that the whistle was blown by the PAD’s Sondhi Limthongkul. Avudh conveniently forgets that the yellow-shirted Sondhi has been equally foul-mouthed and has also been charged with lese majeste. Foul-mouthed monarchists and allies are okay.

Avudh seems content that the “Criminal Court ruled last Thursday Daranee had tarnished the reputation of Their Majesties with malicious intent to sway the crowds to lose their reverence and trust in the monarchy.” The warning is there for others who might seek fame by attacking the monarchy. He simply can’t comprehend alternative political views.

Update: Ironically, Avudh’s story, along with the remarkable Sopon’s latest musings (1 Spetember 2009: “Red shirts face setbacks due to bad leadership”), are carried in an issue of The Nation (1 September 2009) with an editorial (“End of the line or daily newspapers?”) about the future of the print and online newspaper. The editorialist states: “However, if most general newspapers do become extinct, both on and off- line, society may become more fragmented and weakened as people turn to increasingly specialised news. Society without commentary and in-depth news and analysis in the general discourse, may end up decimating itself into small pockets of people hardly relating or feeling empathetic to one another.” In Thailand, The Nation seems to have been intent on this kind of “decimation.”


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1 09 2009
New: Pravit on Darunee and the whitewashing the 2006 coup « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] had insinuated that they supported the coup.” This is interesting, for as PPT pointed out in an earlier post, journalists made this point about palace support right after the coup. In fact, there is plenty of […]




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