A yellow Thongbai should be red-faced

7 11 2010

Thongbai Thongpao was once a respected human rights lawyer who gained considerable credit by taking on difficult cases. It is indeed sad to see that, when he adopted a yellow-shirt to attack Thaksin Shinawatra, he seems to have thrown aside notions of fairness and logic. His most recent column in the Bangkok Post is positively embarrassing. It is embarrassing enough to get him a seat on the Constitutional Court.

Thongbai seems ticked off that Thailand’s ranking has dropped precipitately this past year in the world press freedom index. All Thongbai can mutter is that this fall beggars belief and “calls into question the validity of the survey.” By questioning the index in this way, Thongbai aligns himself with a bunch of despots and their cheer squads worldwide.

He gets his racist hat on to assert: “What the ranking tells us is that press freedom in Thailand is scant when measured against the yardstick of the West.” In fact, this statement seems ignorant of the headline comments made by Reporters Without Borders when releasing the index, when they drew attention specifically to failures and backsliding in Europe.

Worse is to come. Ignorance and slothfulness, for example, when Thongbai states: “I have not been able to learn the criteria used for compiling the index.” Perhaps he might have looked at the page that appears next to the index, here. Maybe Thongbai found the term “methodology” somehow misleading. Maybe he was just to lazy or ignorant to look for it. Or perhaps he knows it is there and is simply making things up.

He adds: “The plunge is attributed, rather simplistically, to the killings of two journalists and the injuries of some fifteen others during their field coverage of the clashes between the red shirt protesters and security forces in Bangkok in April and May.” That is simplistic. It seems having 17 journalists injured is unworthy of consideration.

Where has human rights lawyer Thongbai had his head buried of late? At best, if we are being polite, his comment is tasteless. It is “downright unfair,” he says, to factor in deaths of journalists. If that were the case, the Philippines would leap several dozen places. In fact, the journalists are themselves to blame for getting killed and injured by trying to get stories from conflict areas! Remember that Thongbai remains a self-described human rights lawyer….

Then human rights lawyer Thongbai prattles on about how great Thai laws are regarding human rights: “Without doubt, Thai laws provide for full respect of human rights, certainly no less than in Europe and the US. There is not a single law that condones restrictions on the freedom of the press…”.

Like Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, Thongbai is disingenuously and stupidly claiming that press freedom is second to none in Abhisit Vejjajiva’s Thailand. In fact, he goes even further, shouting: “Freedom of the broadcast media in Thailand these days is vast and almost limitless.” Sounding downright pleased about the coup, he claims that the 2006 coup did not impact media freedom “in any significant way.”

The best way for an index to be constructed “should be based on an evaluation of the extent to which a country’s laws limit press freedom.” He seems to not give a hoot about the implementation of the laws or the enactment and implementation of laws that directly oppose any laws that are supposed to support media freedom. Thaksin’s regime, which was criticized extensively by Thongbai, would have looked good by Thongbai’s mindless calculations.

We will not sit idly by and watch as our hard-fought freedoms are taken away. We will mount a resistance without prompting from any international organisation.

We cannot think of a dumber commentary on media freedom for several years. When he says: “No form of witchhunt or suppression of the media will be tolerated in Thailand,” you see what he has become. “Dumb” is too polite, for what Thongbai is doing is throwing aside decades of good work in order to be a propagandist for a regime that has done more to restrict the media than any government for years.


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7 11 2010
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