The Nation attacks Hun Sen

25 10 2009

Oops, someone let the racist nationalists out at The Nation. Sure, they have always been there, but it is not often that they express their sentiments in an editorial. The editorial for 25 October 2009 (“Hun Sen shows lack of class and tact”), the editorial writer has displayed some of the nastiest characteristics of Thai nationalism.

The Nation is upset that Hun Sen, the Cambodian premier and one of the longest serving ASEAN leaders, made remarks that the current Democrat Party-led government finds provocative and the editorialist believes these remarks will damage ASEAN and bilateral relations between Thailand and Cambodia.

The editorial begins: “You can take the man out of the jungle but you cannot take the jungle out of the man, or so the saying goes. At this moment, that could be said about mercurial Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen after the verbal sparring of the last few days.”

This is racism. It is a variety of Thai nationalist racism.

Various regimes have long considered Cambodia and Cambodians as inferior and less civilized. As the respected Historian says, “Thais have also felt considerable hatred for the Khmer…”. His article on the relationship is well worth reading  at the Kyoto Review, from March 2003, prompted by the sacking of the Thai embassy in Cambodia.

The Nation is clearly upset by the support Hun Sen gave to Thaksin Shinawatra. And when Thaksin seems to make any ground, The Nation comes out fighting, accusing and denigrating.

The editorial writer observes: “Perhaps the Cambodian premier thought he was still leading some Khmer Rouge faction, and did not think that as prime minister of his country there was a need to be considerate to others’ feelings, much less diplomatic protocol.” The writer claims that Hun Sen’s support for Thaksin and the red shirts “really ripped at the heart of so many Thais at a time when the country is bogged down with internal strife. One wonders what Hun Sen would have got out of rubbing more salt on open wounds.”

The Khmer Rouge affiliation is brought up again later in the editorial in the context the UN tribunal. The Nation claims that Hun Sen is stalling, delaying. Why?: “Is it because the Cambodian leader does not want the tribunal to reach too far as some of his Cabinet members might be named? After nearly 2 million deaths, a lot of people have blood on their hands, so it seems.”

As is usual when referring to Thaksin supporters, The Nation claims that Thaksin has duped Hun Sen.

The Nation then decides to judge Cambodian politics: “Holding on to power by any means and turning his once war-torn country into his personal playground would not count for much in terms of achievements in this day and age. Under his rule, Cambodia continues to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world. We think the Cambodian people deserve better.”

Just in case anyone wanted to compare the Cambodian government with that in Thailand, the writer claims that “the current Thai government came through a parliamentary process, not because of the 2006 coup.” No one would describe Cambodia as a model democracy, especially not domestic opponents of the regime. And one would expect Thailand to do better than Cambodia on most indices. That said, on both the Reporters Without Borders Index and the Transparency International index of the perception of corruption, while still ranked lower than Thailand, Cambodia is rising while Thailand is falling.

Worse still, for this commentator at The Nation, Hun Sen is ungrateful: “it was the Thai government that was instrumental in helping him and Cambodia’s return to the Asean fold and eventually the grouping’s membership.” The implication is that “little brothers” should know their place and be respectful of their “big brothers” in Thailand.

The writer is also aggrieved because Hun Sen broke the ASEAN rules – don’t criticize anyone: “[the] Asean Summit should have been an occasion to consolidate among members. But instead, it has been sidetracked into trivial personal issues.” We added the emphasis because the racist writer suggests, stupidly, that the  Cambodian leader is personally upset with Thailand.

Leave out all the recent border incidents, the racist attacks on Cambodians by PAD and the attacks on Hun Sen and Cambodia by Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. Could they can have something to do with Hun Sen’s comments? And, if the Khmer Rouge case is to be brought up, forget the Thai government’s long support of the Khmer Rouge and the military and other aide that was provided to prolong the conflict in Cambodia.

It is worth looking at the government’s site, I Love Thailand and its approach to “Thai” territory. This is the kind of nationalism promoted by the government and undoubtedly drives some of the racist nationalism at The Nation. Readers might find this article by historian Milton Osborne of interest.

Just for good measure, the writer attacks General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, “who … should be condemned for internationalising a domestic issue for his own benefit.” Chavalit is then demeaned as “[g]iggling” and “puerile” and “low,” even “desperate.”

Finally, breathless with rage, the editorial writer has this parting shot: “Perhaps it would be better for Hun Sen to keep his friendship with fugitive Thaksin, and their mutual admiration, in the closet. It could be a case of twisted minds thinking alike.”

We at PPT have been critical of journalists The Nation for their inability to take their personal hatred of Thaksin out of their reporting and editorials. We could just say that this is a terrible editorial and be done with it.

In this case, however, we think that they do their readers a favor by displaying the racism that underpins their particular variety of nationalism. It is a rabid nationalism that was also seen on the PAD stage and which can be more vicious in application domestically than in its international use. The Nation has again reminded readers that this kind of dangerous nationalism remains in the arsenal of those who fight for king and country.


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6 responses

26 10 2009
Updated: Traitors and enemies « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Traitors and enemies Following on from The Nation’s racist nationalist editorial yesterday, Sopon Onkgara shows these traits and argues the need to get at traitors and internal enemies (27 […]

30 10 2009
New: Bangkok Pundit, The Nation’s surprize and succession « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] come up with an editorial that is measured, serious and important. Given its recent track record of xenophobia, an ability to simply make things up and a tendency to be the English-language mouthpiece for the […]

6 11 2009
New: The Nation and principles « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] This is really a surprise when it is considered that the same editorial column engaged in a blatantly racist and jingoistic attack on all Cambodians just less than two weeks […]

7 11 2009
abejero | from the Big Apple to the banks of the Mekong

[…] pointed out by the Political Prisoners of Thailand blog, Just in case anyone wanted to compare the Cambodian government with that in Thailand, the writer […]

11 11 2009
The Nation and principles « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] This is really a surprise when it is considered that the same editorial column engaged in a blatantly racist and jingoistic attack on all Cambodians just less than two weeks […]

17 09 2011
No shame Abhisit | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] was as dumb as that. This personalistic approach to foreign policy meant: letting Thailand’s racist nationalists off the leash; recalling diplomats; royalists speaking badly of Hun Sen; jingoistic militarism; […]




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