10 11 2011

If it wasn’t already clear, it is repeatedly being reinforced in the mainstream media that the natural and human crisis caused by massive flooding is a political opportunity. Indeed, for the royalists and their so-called Democrat Party it is a heaven sent opportunity to turn back the red tide that swamped them back in the July elections. It seems nature has handed them a political opportunity to take apart that result.

Related, the military has grasped an opportunity to reinvigorate its appalling public image born of its capacity to kill while protecting the still extant royalist regime. While troops are out working very hard, for much of the mainstream media it is as if only the military is doing the heavy lifting. There is little attention to, say, the bus drivers and garbage collectors who struggle on.

The media shows military trucks taking people about in flooded areas when it is actually the everyday buses that are still doggedly pushing through the waters. There are also many private sector vehicles helping out. It seems they even concoct some of this.

Volunteers, officials and tens of thousands of others are working night and day in very difficult circumstances and get little credit as media and other opportunists highlight themselves.

For many in the mainstream media, it is as if the military are the only ones out there. Even the Army boss General Prayuth Chan-ocha seems a bit taken aback by this, stating: “The Army isn’t the sole hero. It is just well equipped with manpower and tools, which can be commanded…”. But for the media, political purpose is at work.

In the English-language media, the Bangkok Post that has provided some classic examples of political opportunism. After recently arguing in an editorial that the floods were not the time for political point-scoring, the Post seems unable to resist the opportunity and to listen to its own editorial advice.

For example, the Bangkok Post’s perennial anti-Puea Thai journalist Aekarach Sattaburuth proclaims that the “Yingluck Shinawatra government is falling out of public favour because of its handling of the country’s flood crisis.”

Why? It seems that “declining popularity is reflected in a recent Suan Dusit poll in which 46.9% of respondents said it had failed its first test and was ill-prepared.” We could ask what the majority 53.1% said, but that isn’t the issue as Aekarach wants to score political points.

Schizophrenically recounting that the “government was sworn into office in early August,” that the “worst disaster in 50 years” was “already creeping up on it,” and that “cabinet seats were barely warm when a vast ocean of water” descended from the north, you’d think Aekarach was about to be fair in his presentation of the mammoth challenges. But you’d be wrong: “In hindsight, she [Yingluck] had ample time in early August to brainstorm ideas from experts to mitigate the impact of floods in the North and the Central Plains and deal with the threat to the capital.” Aekarach might have added that the parliamentary requirements meant that the government didn’t actually become fully operational until late August, but that would be too reasonable.

But wait, the other side of the brain kicks in again: “In reality, little could be done for many of the provinces north of Bangkok, such was the extent of the deluge.” But then back to the other side: “Yet she and her cabinet cannot avoid responsibility for the catastrophe.” It is all Yingluck’s fault! The implication is that she and her government should go!

In such circumstances, the only thing for a schizophrenic journalist to do is to call on a declared government opponent for a confirmatory comment. In this case it is Sombat Thamrongthanyawong, rector of the National Institute of Development Administration. He reckons that “since the flood disaster began, the government has been defeated on every front.” Sombat stressed “it is important to put the right man in the right job and not deal with problems as they crop up.” That man is clearly not Yingluck Shinawatra!

In a post some time ago, PPT said this of Sombat: “A more staunch opponent of Thaksin Shinawatra, all of his related parties and the red shirts than Sombat Thamrongthanyawong would be hard … to find. Yet he is … regularly cited in the media as if he is independent. He was one of the academics appointed by the military junta to the National Legislative Assembly in 2006.”

In another Post piece, Pichai Chuensuksawadi, who is the is Editor-in-Chief of Post Publishing, gets into the act: “For months now floodwaters have wreaked havoc on the lives and livelihoods of so many Thais…”. The lesson for Pichai in the inundating waters is vintage People’s Alliance for Democracy and royalist mantra: all politicians are hopeless bastards. He says: “What … remains in doubt, … is whether the Thai people can rely on the necessary collective leadership to implement the right measures, indeed make tough decisions, to ensure that a similar disaster will not occur again.”

While he is talking about all civilian political leaders, Pichai adds in a curious mix of 1970s throwback male chauvinism and PAD anti-Thaksinism: “There is no doubt that Khun Yingluck has all the good intentions; she is determined and is trying her best to deal with this disaster. In fact, I do feel sorry for her as this challenge of premiership was thrust upon her.”

Poor little girl! He continues: “This disaster has shown that inexperience … has resulted in missteps by the prime minister.” She couldn’t “control” ministers, she changed her mind on important things, she “flip-flopped” – women, eh, always changing their minds!

Add in the constructed rumor that the Puea Thai Party want to get rid of Yingluck and replace her with a strong man like Chalerm Yubamrung. PPT recalls all the Post stories of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 that claimed the Puea Thai Party was split and falling apart, Chalerm would be party leader, and that factional manoeuvring would be the end of the party and its electoral prospects.

Most of those stories were simply political support for the royalist party…. In an earlier post mentioning Pichai at the time of the election in July, PPT observed that he headed “a media outlet that did much to support the Democrat Party. As one of the elite’s media, it [the Bangkok Post] inflated public support, boosted its campaign, gave extra space to Abhisit and wrote op-eds that were blatantly anti-Puea Thai.”

Get the girl out! Pichai explains: “I do believe that a more experienced leader would have done a better job. Love him or hate him, we must admit that Thaksin Shinawatra would have done a better job. Likewise with Abhisit Vejjajiva. Both have had experience…”. Thaksin! Yep, he said it. But this is chauvinism. Don’t let the elected girl do her job. Pichai wants authoritarian men who are not afraid to use forceful means to get what they want. Men to the rescue! We are surprised he didn’t mention General Sarit Thanarat as the prime example of men getting things done.

Of course, there is the one man who really matters: “In 1995 His Majesty the King advised and warned…”. As if in the palace was dictating the political line, Pichai says: “Sadly, and clearly, our political leadership then, and now, have not heeded the king’s advice.”

If readers examine the map in this report, it is seen how the dyke – “HM King’s dyke” – that was constructed following his advice encloses the city. That construction means that areas outside the dyke are regularly sacrificed to floods.

This brings us to the palace’s opportunism.

Of course, the king has to be the super-hero. Because he is aged and remains hospitalized, this is done via his loyal men. So we see pressure on Yingluck to buckle under to all palace directions and orders. Hence, loyalist royal defender and retainer Dr. Sumet Tantivejkul, Secretary-General of the king’s Chaipattana Foundation, is appointed as an adviser of a Yingluck-established committee to “work out water resources management strategies” post-flood. Sumet is the palace’s proxy for the “ultimate guru.” This term is from Sumet a while back when he stated: “We have the ultimate guru and sage in our land, but we never listen [to him]. Instead, we listen to whom we shouldn’t.” That the same line spun by Pichai. PPT has previously noted Sumet’s political involvement in machinations associated with the judiciary and the Democrat Party.

As we previously noted, the palace has gone into campaign mode, explaining its version of flood history. It is supported by several significant loyalists.

Doing his bit is Army boss General Prayuth. He has been speaking on the king’s views and positions. He is reported in The Nation doing this again. Prayuth explains that the king “is concerned about flood victims and wants to see the deluge drained away soon…”. No surprise or philosophy in that, as there are literally tens of millions thinking exactly this….

But as Prayuth tells it, the king is doing more: “His Majesty has proffered advice and granted audiences to the government to consult with him, the general said. All Thais, out of gratitude, should express their best wishes for the beloved monarch’s quick recovery, he said.”

That recovery might refer to his still unexplained two-year hospitalization or it might refer to another bit of palace PR. The Bangkok Post, has cited Princess Chulabhorn who has been doing a bit of royal charity related to the floods, requiring the commitment of resources to her travel and “standing.” She also says the king is concerned but goes further: “She said that about a week ago, His Majesty the King had been watching flood news stories on television for five hours. She said the monarch, who has been concerned for people suffering from the deluge, was probably stressed and fell ill as a result…. But His Majesty said very little and it turned out he developed symptoms of illnesses such as internal bleeding.”

This is part of the palace PR that has the king as the father of the country who has a magical and paternalistic connection to his people that no politician could possibly attain: “His Majesty loves his people like his children…. When he is aware that the people are suffering, so does he.” She added: “His heart always goes out to his people…”. When they suffer, he suffers.

If it wasn’t the continual need for royalist PR, such revelations focused on an individual in a time of national crisis might seem difficult to explain. The princess added that “doctors are determined to establish which part of his body had suffered and that the King was under observation.” But magically defying mortal doctors, she says: “now his condition is returning to normal.”

Even in times of a huge national disaster, don’t let the propaganda gaze fall from the one who is always better than the nasty, grasping, and insolent politicians. The latter are always doomed to failure because they don’t listen enough to the ultimate guru.




2 responses

23 02 2012
Appointing royalists to consider constitutional (non-)amendment « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] at NIDA to oppose those he sees as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, including outspoken and baseless  attacks on the current government and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Back in April 2010, he was one of the academics signing a […]

23 02 2012
Appointing royalists to consider constitutional (non-)amendment « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] at NIDA to oppose those he sees as pro-Thaksin Shinawatra, including outspoken and baseless  attacks on the current government and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Back in April 2010, he was one of the academics signing a […]

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