Updated: Abhisit at CFR II

28 09 2010

As promised, PPT provides further commentary on Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva recently spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. This post is about the question and answer period that followed his speech, which PPT posted on earlier.

We have to admit that the Q & A was disappointing because so much wasn’t asked, and this allowed Abhisit to range free in a remarkable display of mendaciousness that was both audacious and arrogant in its delivery.

The first question related to double standards in the justice system, with Abhisit being asked about the Democrat Party dissolution case vis-a-vis the predecessor parties (PPT assumes the Thai Rak Thai Party). Abhisit claimed that his party will “certainly be held to the same standards” as the pro-Thaksin parties. But he fudges the truth. The TRT case was under a military-backed regime and used retrospectively-applied laws. That is not the case for the Democrat Party, which is in power and has the politicized Department of Special Investigation working for it on its dissolution cases.

When asked what the values were that clashed in the events of April and May, Abhisit says “I didn’t say clash of values as such…”. In fact, he did. But he goes on to say that the yellow and red shirts take “different perspectives … on the concept of democracy.” Abhisit states that when the PAD were demonstrating, they emphasized “accountability, transparency, respect for the law…”. Abhisit is suffering amnesia, forgetting the monarchy, nationalism and extra-legal demands.For the red shirts the “values” were not just about making votes count and having parliamentary democracy functioning but double standards, injustice, inequality, the coup and so on.

Abhisit wants to make the point that he spans both sets of “perspectives.” Interestingly, he points a finger at elected governments that use authoritarian means. Abhisit does not apply this same standard to his own government, which has never won at the ballot box, but still uses authoritarian means, backed by the military’s guns. The real violence and the balance of weapons is with the Abhisit government and they have used them several times.

Ignoring Abhisit’s blatant lie on why red shirts were not arrested on 19 September – he says they didn’t block roads, but anyone who is sighted knows that’s inaccurate – he then dissembles on censorship, arguing that Thailand has plenty of space for opposition opinion. Indeed, “much, much more space than we’ve seen for quite some time…”. He quickly adds that this doesn’t apply to red shirt media, which he says is political propaganda for the red shirts. Maybe Abhisit has never watched government television, but this is almost staggering in its application of double standards.

Of course, Abhisit uses the “they incite violence” line, while ignoring yellow-shirt media that does the same. He says nothing of the silencing and blocking of media that does not incite violence or hatred, such as Prachatai. Abhisit answers another question by saying that when there is censorship of all the red shirt media, “the situation is a lot calmer.” That’s the real point. Abhisit likes censorship; it is useful for him. Abhisit not only compares the red shirts to al Qaeda, but also to the IRA.

Finally, in the last couple of minutes he rambles about the computer crimes and lese majeste laws, suggesting that his government has wanted to moderate their use. Unfortunately, the facts are that this government has used political laws like these far more than predecessors, and they use them to censor and repress. He gets a dopey and uniformed question from someone claiming to be from Human Rights Watch that allows Abhisit to claim again that his appointed commissions are fully independent. Again he sounds like he thinks his audience is made up of a bunch of dolts when he claims: ” I haven’t seen or heard any complaints about these commissions not being able to work or can’t get the necessary information that they want.” That’s not what the media reports from Bangkok. Maybe Abhisit is like two of the three monkeys, not hearing and not seeing?

He also manages to attack HRW for its recent statement, saying that “now no one is detained…”. He means under the emergency decree. This is semantic gymnastics, for the red shirt leadership is now charged with vague crimes of terrorism and breaking the decree’s provisions. It remains unclear whether all detainees have been charged, but this is because Abhisit’s government prefers to be opaque on matters of repression. He denies this but all human rights observers disagree with him. More untruths from the premier.

He can be smug that he has gotten by. But he did it with a blatant display of dishonesty. Does Abhisit even believe what he is saying? More to the point, perhaps, has the Democrat Party leadership simply convinced itself that its own propaganda is real? In this sense, perhaps Abhisit doesn’t even understand what he is saying.


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28 09 2010
Live updates: Kasit at Asia Society « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] mentions the reform councils, as Abhisit did at the CFR. He argues that they are all from “civil society” and are all independent. Notes the […]

29 09 2010
Democrat Party electoral fraud case « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Kasit Piromya, the Democrat Party and its government are squeaky clean. Both he and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva seemed confident regarding the legal processes currently in train that look into the party’s […]

2 10 2010
Further updated: Chiranuch on her arrest « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] unmistakeably moderate, stoic and good-natured. How did Abhisit (and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya) react when asked about censorship and freedom of expression? […]

21 10 2010
Thailand dives lower on press freedom index « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] perhaps Abhisit’s remarkable comments at the Council for Foreign Relations, as PPT reported them: Thailand, he said, has plenty of space for opposition opinion. Indeed, […]

12 12 2010
Analysis of court-ordered censorship | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] of the press “is second to none in the world!” Here is the Foreign Ministry doing the same. And see Abhisit’s claims that “Thailand has plenty of space for opposition opinion. Indeed, ‘much, much more […]