Updated: Media bias I

26 11 2013

PPT has a series of posts to put up over several hours as the political situation in Thailand becomes increasingly chaotic. Several of these relate to media, politics and bias.

The Nation has published an editorial calling for Suthep Thaugsuban to pull back from his direct action and from “forcing the issue” on getting rid of the “Thaksin regime.” No doubt the author of the call thinks it a principled stand for democracy and “civil disobedience.” However, it is really little more than a debate amongst the activists on the street and the armchair supporters of that movement. It shows that Suthep is not necessarily in total control of the forces working against the government. It is also an example of the remarkably biased yellow-shirted “understanding” of recent political events. We illustrate this below.

It begins: “We have the chance to break a historic cycle of violent protest and usher in a new era of peaceful and principled politics.” The paper forgets that virtually every major protest movement in Thailand, from 1973 to 1976, 1992 and 2010 began peacefully. But for some reason the paper thinks Suthep’s protest is different:

The newspaper images from Sunday’s massive rally in Bangkok spoke loud and clear. People from all walks of life and every political hue shared one goal: to exercise their right to protest against an “unjust” government. The massive rally was one of the largest in Thai history, but the tens of thousands who gathered proved they could do so in peace, regardless of numbers. It was an especially impressive moment in Thai politics, proving that mass protests against the government don’t have to end in violence.

Of course, the so-far unspoken comparison is with the red shirts. The implication is that the red shirt protest was violent. It wasn’t. The red shirt caravan in March 2010 was undoubtedly the biggest peaceful demonstration ever seen in Thailand. Yet the Democrat Party refused to listen to this huge demonstration of solidarity and refused to call an election – the red shirt demand.

The editorial later refers to demonstrations leading to violence or a military coup. One of the false historical comparisons drawn on this is with “the People’s Assembly [it’s actually Alliance] for Democracy rallies against the Thaksin Shinawatra government eventually saw democracy struck down by a coup [in 2006].” What is unspoken here or conveniently forgotten is that the PAD efforts had essentially stopped long before the coup. The opposition to Thaksin was taken over by the palace and the military was required to finish off the elected regime.

The editorial continues:

It was also puzzling when Suthep said he would continue the protest even if Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra resigned or dissolved the House. His only goal now is to get rid of the “Thaksin regime”, though the rallies started as a campaign solely against the amnesty bill. Suthep should know better than to force the issue in this way, having experienced first-hand the violent political protests by red shirts in 2010.Democrat Party losses

As we noted above, in 2010, the Democrat Party was not interested in elections then and it is not interested now. There are two reasons for this. First, they simply don’t win elections. Second, there is a deep and long philosophical – if that is the right word – objection to elections amongst the opponents of Thaksin Shinawatra and supporters of monarchism. Whereas PAD rejected the notion of a fully-elected parliament, Suthep and the Democrat Party now appear to reject the very idea of electoral representation.

The editorial is right to observe this: “Our biggest challenge now is to learn from, rather than repeat, history.” It might just help the case if the editorial writers could understand history and break out of their blinkered, royalist vision of the past.

Update: A reader points out that the editorial quotes old supporters of PAD and represents a “nostalgia for 2008,” when PAD’s determination was seen through to the end, and resulted in a “judicial coup” rather than a military coup. The old PADistas and their media allies somehow see a judicial coup as “the rule of law” if not democracy at work.


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