Further updated: The Nation on independent investigations

3 06 2010

As long-time PPT readers will know, several times in the past we have pointed to the outrageous bias and unprofessional journalism in The Nation – memorably, one of our readers referred to this newspaper as “fish wrap.” So bad has the paper become that it has spawned its own parody site. But let’s take a recent editorial seriously.

The Nation (2 June 2010)  decides to attack Thaksin Shinawatra yet again. This time the editorial writer is incensed by Thaksin’s hiring of Robert Amsterdam of Amsterdam & Peroff as a lobbyist and the apparent hiring of Professor G J Knoops by Amsterdam. PPT earlier listed Amsterdam’s blog as a source of pro-Thaksin information.

The Nation doesn’t like either move.  PPT won’t go into the detail of the editorial or of Amsterdam’s reply (where he seems to think The Nation is a “government-controlled Thai newspaper” – we can understand his confusion, however).

Thaksin’s legal team has made it known that it plans to investigate “human rights abuses and war crimes committed by the Thai authorities in its handling of the April and May violence.”

The Nation editorial writer states that the paper is “supportive of a full and independent investigation” and even says that “foreign mediation in the investigation…”.  But the problem for The Nation is that this particularl investigation “is being launched and paid for by a stakeholder – not to mention the fact that this stakeholder has been charged with being the mastermind behind the violence – is not exactly credible or neutral.”

PPT wonders why it is that The Nation has not asked this same question of the military-backed and Nation-supported Abhisit Vejjajiva government? Abhisit has talked about independent investigations but this is always in the context of organizations in Thailand that are anything but independent. There is also talk of the government approaching individuals to join an “independent investigation.” No details are released but we have serious reservations that such an investigation can be independent or impartial.

The Nation adds: “we need to ask ourselves if the state mechanism – namely our legal system – is in such a state of shambles that a foreign mediator is needed at all?” The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Interference in the judiciary and its politicization has expanded exponentially since the king’s call for the judiciary to interven in April 2006.

In rejecting the Amsterdam/Thaksin lobby and PR effort, The Nation says: “how about investigating the deaths of the Tak Bai demonstrators in October 2004?” PPT observes that there has been judicial investigation of this, reporting during the tenure of the Abhisit government. It was a complete whitewash. That’s a serious strike against the judiciary and continues a pattern of almost never finding against the military and police brass.

The Nation also raises “the 2,500 alleged drug-dealers killed extrajudicially in just a few months in 2003 and 2004 under Thaksin’s ‘war on drugs’.” While not a judicial investigation, PPT recalls that an investigation team appointed by Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont, former army chief and on-off privy councilor, when he headed the military junta’s government following the 2006 coup. It included dedicated Thaksin opponents such as Kraisak Choonhavan, now a deputy leader of the governing Democrat Party. Not only did it find far fewer extra-judicial killings than the usual 2,500 reported, but it failed to move any of the investigations far enough to seek action against those responsible. It seemed to fizzle out and was canned by the Samak government. Back in March, when pushed by the Puea Thai Party, Abhisit said he’d do more on this important case. Nothing so far.

The Nation concludes that “it’s a bit far-fetched to think that the public will take this [Amsterdam/Thaksin investigation] as an honest and fair gathering of evidence and opinion.” PPT can accept that. However, it is equally unlikely that the government can mount an “honest and fair gathering of evidence and opinion.” What is needed is an independent and international investigation.

2 updates: Perhaps not by chance, the Bangkok Post reports that the government is re-opening the investigation into the war on drugs extra-judicial killings. The report states that the investigating committee formed by the Surayud government was being reviewed for its membership and the justice minister claimed to have “approached a number of experts to sit on the independent committee and was awaiting their reply. He said the public would accept the people he had approached.” Let’s see. Earlier, though, there was a report that the investigation was to be completed by the DSI. So what is it? Independent? Probably not.


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