Updated: BBC on king’s health

23 11 2014

As readers will know, the king went back into hospital on 3 October this year, and since then there have been several official reports stating that he has had relatively minor ailments related to stomach inflammation and related issues.

The BBC has reported that the king has “failed to appear for a scheduled event, raising fresh concern about his health.” He was scheduled to “preside over the confirmation of two ministers appointed by PM [they mean The Dictator and general] Prayuth Chan-ocha…”. The king’s minders canceled.

The report notes that the king’s “health is a sensitive issue in Thailand” and adds that “[a]ny discussion about the royal succession is tightly constrained by a stringent lese-majeste law.”

That sounds like a death watch is established.

The report then makes this somewhat odd claim that warrants a footnote: “BBC’s Jonathan Head in Bangkok says he is accorded a revered status that is considered vital to the country’s stability.” That is the usual media claim, but here the BBC seems to be disowning it.

Update: BBC Television is now reporting that the king met with The Dictator and his two ministers last evening for 45 minutes.

BBC and the junta

10 07 2014

According to the BBC World Service, it will “run a ‘pop up’ news operation in Thailand from Thursday 10 July. It will launch at 18.30 Thai Time (GMT +7).” Here’s the rest of their story:

The operation will be digital-only and ‘social first’, that is, a news stream on social media, with both Thai and English content, and it will run for an initial period of three months.

The move follows the military coup in May after which international channels, including BBC World News TV, were taken off air temporarily.bbc-world_service

Liliane Landor, Controller of Language Services for the World Service, said: “One of the fundamental principles of the World Service is to bring impartial and accurate news and to countries when they lack it. We think the time is right to trial a new Thai and English digital stream to bring trusted news and information to people inside Thailand.

“Thailand is one of the most digitally advanced societies in South East Asia and this means we can set up this operation quickly and cost-effectively.”

The World Service’s Thai Service closed in 2006 after more than 60 years on air.

The BBC has sought and received approval from the Foreign Secretary for this move, as set out in the Operating Licence governing the relationship between the World Service and the Government.

Hugo Swire, the Minister for South East Asia, said the move was an “excellent idea” which would “help support the freedoms of expression and thought which are such critical parts of any successful democracy”, and that “this initiative embodies what the BBC is all about”.

Background: The news stream will launch tomorrow on Facebook, with Thai, regional and international news in Thai and English.

Thailand has 96m mobile subscriptions out of a population of 67m.

Thailand has 24m Facebook users, with over 13m in Bangkok alone (a growth of 320% in last 12 months).

PAD, the monarchy (again) and a beat-up (?)

24 11 2011

The Bangkok Post reports that while the People’s Alliance for Democracy cancelled its anti-Thaksin Shinawatra-cum-anti-Yingluck Shinawatra rallying, it has “vowed to hold a prolonged mass rally against the government if there is a renewed bid to seek a royal pardon for ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.”

But PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul went further than this. He vowed to also have PAD rallying if the Yingluck government “fails to stop the anti-monarchy movement…”. Sondhi promised protesters numbering in the “hundreds of thousands.” Why the push on the monarchy?

Sondhi claims “the anti-monarchy movement was still active with websites with lese majeste content prevalent on the internet.” He claims that “PAD is gathering evidence to prove the government is insincere in protecting the monarchy.” Further, PAD is going to “submit a petition asking the government to take action against anti-monarchy elements.” If the government doesn’t act within 14 days, “PAD will stage a mass rally…”.

PPT has a feeling that PAD is just getting warmed up. Sondhi is going to bank on protecting the monarchy as the rallying cry. More importantly, now that a pro-Thaksin government is in power, the tawdry anti-Cambodia rallies of last year, which failed to draw crowds, can be left aside and the “true believers” – including the Democrat Party – can be brought out under the royalist banner to fight the devil and his followers. The issues are now much clearer and the target makes better sense for a broader group of anti-Thaksinites.

Interestingly, PAD spokesman Panthep Puapongpan warned the red shirts and the government, blaming them in advance for any confrontation. He also warned: “Thaksin has no land [in Thailand] to live on. Ms Yingluck may end up like her brother…”.

In a kind of footnote to this story, it is interesting to see the BBC’s comments on the whole royal pardon debacle. It seems the BBC finds something in the claim by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok “that the speculation had been dreamt up by a ‘frantic’ media.” The report states: “The current amnesty plan covers only serving prisoners, and excludes people found guilty of fraud. But local media claimed the government, led by Mr Thaksin’s sister Yingluck, was trying to change the rules of the amnesty to include the former prime minister.” It then appears to lash the Bangkok Post: “The Bangkok Post newspaper fuelled the speculation last week when it quoted a government insider as saying a secret cabinet meeting had been held to discuss the issue.”

Was it a beat up? Probably not entirely, for Chalerm Yubamrung was involved, seemingly intent on causing some kind of mini-crisis, but then PAD’s Panthep is cited in The Nation making some claims that seem to suggest the BBC is on to something: “The PAD said it did not believe what Pracha [Promnok] said [on the royal pardon decree] but as there was no clear evidence suggesting otherwise and no independent figure who had seen the draft, the PAD would give the government a chance to prove it was telling the truth. If the document was submitted to the Council of State, the government’s legal advisory body, the PAD may have a chance to see the content of the draft to verify that Thaksin would not really benefit…”.

The BBC documentary that everyone should be talking about

10 08 2011

As Andrew Spooner mentioned in a recent post, the BBC has a particularly hard-hitting documentary – “Thailand – Justice Under Fire” – that examines the Battle for Bangkok in 2010. It has been difficult to locate. However, thanks to several regular readers, PPT now has the links. They are: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

The BBC asks, amongst many, many good questions: will those who have killed with impunity at last face justice? And it examines the cover-up that has occurred under the royalist government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva. The blurb adds: “Award-winning correspondent Fergal Keane investigates the struggle of victims’ families as they seek the truth about what happened to their loved ones. He explores claims of cover-up and impunity for the powerful.” As Keane says: “The powerful have never been held to account.”

As Spooner points out, the brief interview with Abhisit, in part 4,  is revealing of a damaged leader, with blood on his hands. The interview with Army Spokesman Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd is revealing of a culture of lies and murder by the military.

Given recent debate about who controls who, Thongchai Winichakul’s description of the military-monarchy relationship as one of collaborators in the political system is worthy of consideration.

This documentary deserves widespread attention and the movement for justice demands support or “what’s covered up will be repeated.”.

BBC on red shirts, lese majeste and media

2 03 2011

What Can I Say? has come to Thailand to discuss media freedom and censorship in Thailand. Here’s a bit of the blurb: “In Thailand, what part have illegal community radio stations had to play in the demonstrations by activists – red-shirt or yellow-shirt – that occupy opposite ends of the political spectrum?”

PPT has listened to the show and it is worth considering for all kinds of reasons, not least for the identification of Thaksin as a former president and the awful rendering of Thai names and places. Kavi Chongkittavorn is interviewed and sounds like he works for something other than The Nation…. The comments of Sulak Sivaraksa are characteristically challenging on race, ethnicity and the monarchy. The discussion on community radio is fascinating for interviews with red and yellow broadcasters.

Do take the time to listen to the 23-minute episode.

Blocking really true vision in Bangkok

21 01 2011

Thanks to a link at Thai Intelligence News Study Centre, PPT was sent to the Bangkok Bugle for a note on True Vision‘s apparent blocking of images in a promo of Bangkok-based reporters Alastair Leithead and Rachael Harvey on the cable broadcast. The scenes show the two journalists at work on the streets of Bangkok in April and May 2010. Of course, True is a part of the CP empire and CP has been a strong supporter of the present regime and of royal causes and especially propaganda.

Red shirts waiting

1 09 2010

There have been several reports in the international media of late regarding the regrouping of red shirts and their political plans and aspirations, including the BBC report PPT posted on a few days ago. The New York Times now has such a report, worth reading.

Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd

It begins by contradicting Colonel Sansern Kaewkamnerd from our earlier post today, where he claimed no persecution or hunting of red shirts. The NYT refers to “a huge poster carries the photographs of 76 people being sought in an attack on the [provincial hall] building [in Udon] three months ago, on the day the anti-government ‘red shirt’ protests were crushed in Bangkok.” It says only 11 have been apprehended so far, and adds that “[s]cores of people are in hiding, many of them sheltered by a mostly sympathetic population. Scores more, arrested at the scene, are being held without bail.”

It goes on to say that in this area “the government appears to have made little headway in calming or winning over its opponents,” that the Abhisit Vejjajiva government “says red shirt leaders are continuing to plot violence,” and mentions “a nationwide campaign of censorship of opposition Web sites and radio stations, [where] the government has shut down 46 local stations here in Udon Thani Province. Public gatherings of more than five people are forbidden.” In this atmosphere, “critics of the government have retreated into silence.”

The resentment of the government is clear and this comment by a dry cleaner seems on the money: “Now the poor people are learning the truth, and that makes the rich unhappy. When people become clever, that means it will be more difficult to govern them.”