The Nation’s convenient amnesia

19 07 2010

PPT doesn’t waste too much time on The Nation’s editorials. Most a forgettable and predictable as the editorial staff writers are lost in a hatred and fear of red shirts and Thaksin Shinawatra. However, a brief comment on this Sunday’s effort is warranted.

The Nation attacks the Washington Post of having the temerity to lecture Thailand on democracy. The grounds for editorial bile are that the Washington Post, like apparently all foreign editorials, somehow manages to let “crucial details … slip through…:” when they argue that the “outcomes of ‘democratic elections’ were ‘not respected’.” The inverted commas around democratic elections tell the reader something about where the editorial writer is headed.

The writer seems to chafe particularly at the idea that the “root cause” of Thailand’s political crisis is “the refusal of the traditional political class, the military and the royal court, which the Abhisit government represents, to accept the results” of elections. An independent observer may believe that there is something in this after coup, judicial coup and all kinds of yellow-shirted demonstrations, army mutiny and so on. But The Nation wants to set the historical record straight. It does so with a very crooked measure.

This is The Nation’s beef with the Washington Post: “The op-ed, crucially, failed to mention that the Samak government was opposed not because of elites’ desire to hold on to power. That government came to power following an election that the military junta promised, and all was well until it started to do what many had feared it would. Street protests against the Samak administration began after it announced plans to amend the Constitution, not for the country’s sake, but for someone longing to come home from exile and possible stage a spectacular political return.”

That, apparently, is history. But The Nation’s editorial, crucially, failed to mention that the Samak government came to power following a palace-military coup, a constitutional fix, a military-backed campaign to fix the results of the referendum and repeated statements by the junta and its government that the parliamentary victors could amend the constitution following the election. The Nation forgets to mention that when this was all stated, the military and its elite bosses reckoned they could fix the election so the Democrat Party could come to power. Its claim that “Election results were always accepted” is simply playing with words to describe a fleeting moment before the elite managed to work out illegal and legal ways of chucking out the elected government.

When that didn’t happen, a campaign began to unseat the elected government that ended with the inaptly monikered People’s Alliance for Democracy, joined by the equally inaptly named Democrat Party’s leadership, occupying Government House and then the airports, forcing a quick judicial decision that brought the government down, with the military and its allies higher up, fixing a new government in place.

There’s more Nation nonsense. Take this: “After the 1992 bloodbath, governments – Democrat-led or others – crumbled under the weight of their own sins, and nobody used “popular mandate” or “landslide election” victory to counter corruption allegations. Only Thaksin did that. So much for the proclamation that he’s a victim of double-standard.” We agree that Thaksin took advantage of his electoral power, but the claim that no other government claimed a “landslide election victory” is simply because none had one. Thaksin had the two biggest ever election victories in Thailand, and the 2005 result truly was a landslide. So The Nation editorial writer is lost in the mist of its own myth-making and historical revisionism.

Thaksin was the only prime minister elected under the 1997 constitution that was meant to create a strong party system and to avoid the perils of unstable coalition government.

So the convenience of letting crucial details slip seems to infect domestic media as well. The Nation seems to be so infected it is in intensive care.



%d bloggers like this: