Business as usual?

8 09 2014

Andrew Stevens is a CNN journalist who is said to have been “a specialist business correspondent and has extensively covered news and business stories across the region.” He is said to have “interviewed many of the world’s political and business leaders and has reported on Asia-Pacific for more than two decades.” He is also said to have “covered elections across many countries and reported on many of the most significant events across the region in the last 20 years.”

Readers will recall that we posted on another foreign propagandist for the military who is some kind of property salesman. That person had some kind of personal interest in propagandizing for the junta. What is in it for Stevens when, at the China Post, this business journalist turns his attention to Thailand and writes as if he is doing a paid promotion for the military dictatorship?

Remarkably, as a business journalist used to praising “Bangkok’s free-wheeling capitalist system,” he seems on a job for the military dictatorship when he writes of  “a public crackdown on illegal businesses, corruption and organized crime.” Given that about 60% of Thailand’s working population is in the “informal sector,” we wonder if such crackdowns are winning “hearts and minds.” Stevens continues on his advert for the junta:

It’s been a little more than three months since a bloodless military coup ousted the government of Yingluck Shinawatra and in that time Thailand has slipped from the front pages and is returning to business as usual [well, not quite, he just told us that]. Not the business that was constantly under the threat of disruption from endless and sometimes deadly street protests or political deadlock in the capital, but business operating in conditions of relative stability and certainty.

Tell the filthy rich, who have gotten richer during the period of political crisis, that they can now reap more profits!

Stevens has been out talking to every single person in Bangkok:

Talk to Thai people in Bangkok and there is an overwhelming view that the coup was a positive development to break nearly a decade of political paralysis. Admittedly Bangkok has always been an anti-Thaksin stronghold and public dissent has been closed down by the military but there is still a sense of calm, even of optimism that the suspension of democracy may reap longer term benefits.

Perhaps if you are an anti-democrat, you would be over the moon at the junta’s decisions to repress, take power into the hands of a tiny military cabal, ban elections, and demand happiness.

When The Dictator takes over national television is a propaganda harangue each Friday, in Orwellian doublespeak, Stevens sees this as a “type of transparency” that he says is “a key policy of the new leadership…”. Stevens “source” for this remarkably stupid claim is “advisers close to the General.” Of course!

Stevens continues on this propaganda line: “Senior leaders of the new administration regularly meet with so-called ‘stakeholders’ — politicians of all affiliations, and business and civic leaders — to talk about the key issues they face.” Focus groups? We suspect they might have told Stevens that these “meetings” were what was really happening in the military detention centers.

After promoting the junta’s “business plans,” with not a single mention of their plagiarism of the Yingluck Shinawatra government policies or the adoption of the “populist” they want to “ban,” Stevens turns to politics:

The leadership talks of a “Thai-style” democracy which is essentially putting the interests of the country before the interests of the individual. It’s about a more inclusive and more equitable society. Advisers say it reflects the moral compass of the man now leading the country.

Of course, this is propaganda with piles of buffalo manure. Thai-style democracy is no democracy at all. Whichever way one spins it, Thai-style democracy is about the military-palace political alliance dominating in a paternalistic system known as “despotic paternalism.”

Finally, Stevens gets down to the main point, where the junta’s “advisers” tell him to propagandize for longer term dictatorship:

But the biggest problem facing this new leadership is one of time. There is a roadmap for elections to be held as early as next year to return Thailand to the democratic process but that will only happen if the leadership deems the country sufficiently recovered from its recent traumas.

We suspect the military junta is just beginning to work the international propaganda circuit and that there will be a lot more of this buffalo dung strewn about.

Elections, shooters and pretenders

7 02 2014

This is a bit of a news roundup from PPT, of things we’d like to say more on but just don’t have time.

We just saw a report by Kocha Olarn who is CNN International’s producer in Bangkok. He was caught in the shooting at Laksi last Saturday, and contrary to what General Prayuth Chan-ocha has said, he was initially with pro-election/red shirt marchers. His account is of how they were attacked and shot by anti-democrat shooters. The shooters he saw seem like well-trained military types, apparently using snipers and two-man teams of shooters, with the latter shown in the video. They have body armor and other pictures have shown radios. They really look like military. Little wonder that Prayuth has been so voluble in denial and antagonistic.

At New Mandala, Nick Nostitz has just posted his account of the Laksi events, with his usual graphic photos.

After the anti-democrat shooting, there was the 2014 election. Chris Baker has an analysis of the voting at New Mandala and Bangkok Pundit has another.

Failed ministerOld prince Mom Ratchawong Pridiyathorn Devakula caused a kerfuffle yesterday calling on the government to resign via an open letter to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

(Actually, we should say “young” as the wealthy prince – he an his wife were worth 1 billion baht back in 2009 – is only in his late 60s, and most of the old duffers who think they should be running the country are a lot older than this!)

He’s been praised by the anti-democrats, but given that he is one of them, this is no surprise (see his “patriotic” pocket square in the picture). Opponents accused Pridiyathorn of wanting to be an appointed premier if Yingluck’s government could be ditched. In fact, Pridiyathorn has a longish history of craving high position and was talked about as a possible premier immediately after the 2006 military coup. Instead that position went to someone even closer to the king.

Pridiyathorn became Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, and this saw one of the most spectacular failures ever in Thailand’s modern political history. He lasted just a few months, with his most disastrous decision being his decision on capital controls. We quote Wikipedia:

Pridiyathorn instituted capital controls to attempt to reverse a strengthening of the baht, but reversed the measure after the Thai stock market crashed, destroying US$20 billion of market value in one day. Pridiyathorn later noted that “This was not a mistake…”.

He obviously believes in himself and his ability to provide “advice” despite this catastrophic crash-and-burn failure. The old elite has nothing if not unshakable confidence in their own greatness. And, he is taken seriously by those on the anti-democrat side.

And on pretending, the Constitutional Court has been at it again. Official red shirt Weng Tojirakarn has criticised the Courts “verdict that anti-government protesters are merely exercising constitutional rights of assembly.” He says: “The verdict of the court contradicts with reality…”. That’s true of most of the court’s politicized decisions. He also points out that court:

insisted that the PCAD is simply exercising the rights of peaceful assembly – which is protected under the Constitution – in response to the government′s pursuit of a legislation that would have absolved the corruption conviction of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Weng asked: “I′m curious whether the court is in league with Mr. Suthep…”. That would seem a rhetorical question.

CNN, the royalist trap and the propaganda time warp

5 12 2011

CNN is highlighting Thailand this week. It may as well be a paid advertisement for the monarchy and country as Thailand falls for the royalist propaganda trap that has captured so many foreign journalists in the past.

The centerpiece of the series of reports is advertised as a CNN exclusive interview with Princess Sirindhorn as she visits the rural “royal children.” Normally, at this time of the year, and with the king’s 7th cycle anniversary birthday, we would expect something on the king, but he hasn’t been active in rural areas for a very long time. So the birthday advertising this year features the seemingly ever-jovial Sirindhorn.

Readers can watch the report themselves, and as they do, consider some of these points. The report is said to come from the unknown “Nakhorn” province (hopefully CNN at least finishes the name of the province). It is a report stuck in a time warp. CNN gives us the new royal propaganda, which is the same of the old stuff. It could be from National Geographic in the 1970s.

The first is that the headline comment is plagiarized from that usually reserved for the king: “Revered in Thailand, Princess Maha Chakri Sirinidhorn uses her status to improve education in deprived communities.” Of course, there is no evidence in the report that Sirindhorn is really “doing” this. Like all royal projects, the Border Patrol Police schools cannot fail, get special attention and plenty of money spent on them. The report seems to think this a virtue.

The report misleads by implying that this all comes from the princess. In fact, these projects owe a great deal to the Thai taxpayer.

The headline itself is just syrupy: “Thailand’s Angel Princess,” where the hapless reporter fails to note that “Prathep” or “angel” is a part of the princess’ title. Nor does reporter Paula Hancocks ask why it is that the monarchy works on schools with the BPP. Later, there is no question raised as to why the princess is in an Army uniform and surrounded by fawning Army officers.

Of course, they can’t do a real story and explain the long link between the BPP, and we could never expect CNN to recall that the BPP were the royalist murderers of October 1976. Likewise, we couldn’t expect CNN to report the close links between the Army and monarchy that has buttressed both and worked against democratization, even resulting in dozens of deaths and thousands of injuries as recently as May 2010.

Even the good works completed by the team of doctors and dentists raises several questions, the most basic of which is: is it even necessary in modern Thailand or is this kind of charity an artifact of a previous era, maintained for propaganda purposes?

Perhaps most striking in this throwback propaganda is the claim that the princess is the one who has made education and health care a right for the children in the report. Of course, this is nonsense. The right to health care and education has been established for some time, in the policies of several governments and funded by the taxpayer. This amounts to a denigration of the work done by hundreds of others.

When it comes to the section of the report on floods, the report claims “she [Sirindhorn] has been directly involved in helping the country’s efforts.” Perhaps, but think of all the others that have done so much more. Why the royal posterior polishing?

With Anand Panyarachun’s new book and this CNN report it becomes clear that there is yet another major attempt to rehabilitate the monarchy’s image. While this recognizes the damage done to the monarchy in recent years – mainly by loopy royalists – it is startling that the means chosen is no different from last decade, the one before that or even before that. There seems little attempt to update the message or the medium. Sirindhorn may well be the most popular face of the monarchy at present, but the message hasn’t changed.

But really, shouldn’t CNN be better than this?

What’s up with Clinton?

4 02 2011

PPT was just watching CNN and saw a clip of U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton talking about media freedom in Egypt. We went off to the State Department’s website to see if we could get a written form. While looking for it, we found British Foreign Secretary William Hague complaining about the crackdown on the media.

We found the Clinton clip where she “condemns” in the “strongest terms” attacks on reporters in Egypt. She says this is a “violation of international norms.”

Is it just us or did she conveniently forget to do this kind of thing so publicly when the Abhisit Vejjajiva government was presiding over events that saw the shooting of several journalists, with several witnesses, including journalists, claiming that the military deliberately targeted them. We don’t recall her condemnation of the monstrous levels of media censorship in Thailand, which is on-going.

Readers should correct us if they know of anything like this statement for Egypt being made for Thailand.

Part of the propaganda benefit that the Thai government has in Washington is a long tradition of “advisers” telling the State Department that it is only the royal family that matters and that the monarchy is the source of stability. Even today, despite the clear evidence that the monarchy has destabilized Thailand’s politics over the past decade, there are academics with thin publication records who have moved from government to universities inside the Beltway and who regularly get inside the palace and in return provide the necessary propaganda as “advice.”

State itself hasn’t been very well served in Thailand. The ambassador at the time of the 2006 military coup was Ralph “Skip” Boyce, who was a supporter of the coup and essentially spoke for it and provided the appearance of U.S. acceptance of the coup. Boyce drew much of his information from yellow shirts, Democrat Party politicians and the patricians of the palace. Eric John tried to provide some more balance and was treated as an “enemy” of royalist Thailand. New ambassador Kristie Kennie is taking a much lower-key approach, judging by her blog that appears remarkably undergraduate and lightweight.


Foreign correspondents, Thailand and the yellow howl

5 09 2010

PPT posted recently on a Time story and added this footnote:”Time refers to Abhisit [Vejjajiva] specifically as ‘Thailand’s elected Prime Minister’ and to the king as the ‘constitutional monarch.’ PPT suspects that this is an attempt to appease those – especially in the current government – who have criticized the foreign media. A bit of toadying to the powers that be? Both statements might be technically accurate, but it is clear that neither carries the true meaning inscribed in these positions by Abhisit’s rise to his position or of the king’s political acts.”

We now hear from Nirmal Ghosh that CNN correspondent Dan Rivers is leaving Thailand, for a plum position in London. Nirmal states: “The move is well timed; seldom have foreign journalists working in Thailand come under the kind of pressure that Dan has. The government of prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, soon after taking office, took a dim view of Dan’s reporting on the Rohingya boat people issue in early 2009.” One of those reports is here.

This is one of the human rights issues that the Abhisit government was able to simply sweep aside. As Ghosh points out, “The government immediately denied the accusations, saying the images had been faked and were misleading. But CNN stood by the story. Last year, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva admitted there had been ‘some instances’ when boats had been pushed out to sea, and pledged an investigation. The Department of Special Investigation was put in charge, but so far no results have been announced.” We know that the DSI is a political force, so supporting the regime is its main task. It was also another case where Abhisit was able to lie and get away with it.

More recently, Rivers and CNN came under attack from yellow-shirted nationalists like Napas na Pombejra, who made patently absurd claims that CNN’s coverage of red shirt protests in Bangkok was biased against the government and Thailand. Her claims drew the support of the queen and large numbers of the Facebook-generation of yellow shirts. For Rivers, this created not just personal threats, but a boycott by the government: “it has been impossible since the storm over CNN …, for Dan to get interviews with government officials. Even Thais in the private sector have been wary.”

More ominously, it brought out the ultra-nationalist, right-wing vigilantes in search of foreign correspondents seen to damaging the nation. Ghosh adds: “Rivers was not the only foreign journalist under attack. BBC correspondents were and still are, also subjected to criticism and vilification, for their coverage of the clashes. The trend is not new; in 2008 many foreign correspondents were blasted in speeches by right wing, royalist ‘yellow shirt’ leaders; on one occasion a right wing radio host urged members of the public to attack then-BBC correspondent Jonathan Head if they came across him.”

The howling of the yellow-clad right wing, reinforced in public ways by a right-wing monarchy, should be shameful to all Thais. Sadly, they will consider that this move by Rivers is a “victory.”

ZeZe and The Nation

23 08 2010

A couple of weeks ago PPT posted on Napas (ZeZe) na Pombejra and the congratulatory personal letter she received from the queen, applauding ZeZe’s open letter to CNN complaining that it had somehow misreported the events of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s violent crackdown on red shirts in April and May 2010.

In that post we commented: Bangkok Pundit commented on the letter here and provided considerable contrary evidence. PPT ignored the letter when we received it for it was so obviously biased and out of kilter with the CNN and BBC reports that PPT had watched on the days around the crackdown. It was, however, a serious event, with CNN reporters apparently receiving hate mail and death threats.

The Nation belatedly has a long story on ZeZe and her letter. Here we refer to the letter to CNN because The Nation somehow fails to mention the queen’s letter at all!

Rather, The Nation’s “journalists” come up with a remarkable claim that the 25-year-old ZeZe supposedly has “better credentials than most people for complaining about the perceived skew in the television news coverage of Thailand’s bloody spring.” Why? Perhaps she is qualified in journalism? No. Perhaps she’s made a study of media bias? No. Maybe she has media experience and savvy. It seems she has very little. For The hacks at The Nation, her qualifications are distant family relationships with Abhisit’s wife and Thaksin Shinawatra’s ex-wife. Wow!

With those credentials, ZeZe “was appalled by what she saw as distortions of the truth, as were many others.” Not by the deaths of 91 people, but by alleged distortions seen through an elite and yellow-shirted prism. So she got angry when “[f]oreign correspondents for the [CNN] network gave the world daily accounts of ‘poor farmers’ standing up to military might…”.

PPT has no idea if ZeZe actually went to any of the red shirt protests. She did attend the yellow shirt/multi-color shirt rally in Silom. PPT did visit the red shirt rally several times and it has to be said that there were plenty of farmers represented and many of them were poor when compared with those like ZeZe who support the current military-palace regime.

Poor ZeZe – and this seems to be the gist of the story – is now upset that she has found herself threatened. Heavens, she has even had to stop “driving by herself to work, wears sunglasses in public, bolstered her Facebook privacy settings and is more careful about what she says on Twitter.” And she seems upset that foreign correspondents view her poorly. This, apparently, is sufficient for her to see foreign correspondents as unprofessional and lacking expertise.

But not a word on the queen’s letter….

The queen, again and again

3 08 2010

Currently doing the rounds in Thailand is a letter from the queen to Napas (Zeze) na Pombejra, thanking Zeze for her open letter to CNN, criticizing their coverage of the Abhisit Vejjajiva regime’s violent crackdown on protesters in Bangkok in May.

Zeze’s letter, in Thai and English can be read here. When the letter came out young suddenly became a yellow-shirt queen, and was praised endlessly by the crowd that wanted the red shirts crushed. Democrat Party members and ministers sent the letter out endlessly.

Bangkok Pundit commented on the letter here and provided considerable contrary evidence. PPT ignored the letter when we received it for it was so obviously biased and out of kilter with the CNN and BBC reports that PPT had watched on the days around the crackdown. It was, however, a serious event, with CNN reporters apparently receiving hate mail and death threats.

Now the queen has sent her signed letter to Zeze on the queen’s personal letterhead, saying (in rough translation):

Chitralada Palace

24 July 2010

I’ve read the letter that you wrote to CNN and feel proud that you stood up and did your duty as a good Thai to defend [us] against foreign journalists with bravery and straightforwardness. At the same time, you were polite and provided a clear statement that should make the world think again about CNN’s reliability.

[I] admire your courage in defending our nation’s image and pride.

(signed) Sirikit

This is the most recent in a series of actions taken by the queen that reveal her deep political commitments with the right wing, military favorites and the People’s Alliance for Democracy (which she sees as defenders of her nation). So stunts like this are probably reflective of a broader and deeper palace support for the regime and yellow shirts.

Updated: The witch hunt is on

25 05 2010

Where do we begin…. A few days ago PPT stated that repression would be increased in Thailand. Sadly, we were correct. We have already posted on the arrests of red shirt leaders and Prof. Suthachai Yimprasert. And it isn’t just Thais being arrested.

The dragnet is extending across the country. Thaksin Shinawatra has been charged as a terrorist (Bangkok Pundit has more). For all of Thaksin’s faults, a terrorism charge is clearly political. Yellow shirts are apoplectic about the red shirt leaders who they claim are living in luxury while arrested (scroll down to Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at

Red shirts are being rounded up in the provinces. Who knows how many have been arrested to date.

But it is more than this. People who are believed to be red shirts are being “outed,” including university applicants who are being rejected because they are accused of being “red” or “anti-monarchy.” There are attacks on CNN, the BBC and other international media (see Bangkok Pundit on this also).

Even moderate academics are being attacked by frothing at the mouth yellow shirts. Regular PPT readers will know that we believe The Nation’s Thanong Khanthong to be certifiable,a nd his latest blog, attacking a too dovish Gothom Arya as an almost red shirt takes the cake. It is serious though. This is a witch hunt. Real lives are threatened. It can’t be long now before a foreign academic is arrested as an enemy of the Thai monarchy.

Abhisit Vejjajiva is leading a government that is dominated by militarists and monarchists; it is a dangerous government.

Update: Two foreigners are amongst the red shirts arrested.

On elections and buildings vs. people

23 05 2010

Andrew Marshall, in an article in The Irrawaddy (21 May 2010) comments on the post-crackdown situation. He observes: “The Red … [Shirts] will return to Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai, to Buriram and Mukdahan, to Nong Khai and Nan, bringing home first-hand accounts of the bloody battle of Bangkok. Towns and villages across the north and northeast will be further radicalized. Until talks between the Reds and the government collapsed last week, a November election had seemed possible. But it is hard to imagine an election ever being held in such a poisonous political atmosphere.”

PPT thinks he’s right. The point about elections is one we made some time ago. Part of the reason for the government opposing red shirt demands was because Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his advisors believed they’d probably lose any election that would have followed a House dissolution. But as we pointed out, PPT believed that Abhisit was opposed to any election, earlier or later, until he knew he and his backers could engineer a win. Now he has a “mandate” to postpone an election because his candidates are unlikely to be able to campaign in red shirt areas. He has often said that this ability to campaign is a required condition for any election.

Indeed, Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has been quoted as having “acknowledged the difficulty of putting the Thai political scene back on an even course. He said in principle the government could agree to early elections in November as long as calm was restored throughout the country…”. He added: “We need to make sure that emotions have cooled to the extent that candidates from all parties can feel safe in campaigning anywhere in the country.” To make the message clear, he stated: “And if we can do that in November, we will do it in November. If it takes a little bit longer than that, we will give it the necessary time that is required…”. In fact, the only reason for going to an election will be that the government and its supporters are sure they can win.

Marshall is also right to point to anger. Anger doesn’t always lead to radical action – the Burmese people have been angry for a considerable time – but will underpin political decision-making and action for many years to come.

PPT has experienced some moments of extreme concern as well. There’s plenty to be angry and concerned about. The partisanship of the mass media and the campaigns against any media seen to be in any way critical of the Thai government’s reprehensible actions in recent days is breathtaking. The current anti-BBC and anti-CNN campaigns stage-managed and promoted by the government are abominations. By the way, we say the government is managing these things because PPT received emails from Democrat Party insiders circulating the information that has now become part of the “campaigns.” We are angry at the way the government is seemingly able to whitewash its draconian track record, its murder of citizens and its on-going repression.

This government is so royalist and so repressive that it even blocks a tiny blog like PPT, usually read only by a few thousand in Thailand. If the government is so right and so good, why does it need to block every single critical observer? Why is it fostering attacks on the international media that are highly personalized? We know the answers.

But here’s something more to be angry about. We think the Butcher of Bangkok has prevented information being available about injuries and deaths during the crackdown. Sooner or later there will be a debate about this, probably in cyberspace. There, the government’s supporters, including the moles the army has working the blogs, will argue that there were cameras everywhere, so nothing could be hidden. When this argument begins, recall that most foreign journalists were behind the troops (including CNN). Few were “embedded” with the red shirts. Those that were on the red shirt side of the event each report from several to many deaths. One reader we have who was there, reports that the troops looked like they were on a hunting trip. The film of soldiers firing deliberately and repeatedly at targeted protesters is suggestive of a higher casualty figure than we have seen – on Friday, the Erawan Emergency Center is reporting a total of 53 people had died and 413 were wounded since 14 May.

It is infuriating to read accounts by many, many journalists that focus on the damage to buildings – see the AP report in The Irrawaddy, where the whole report by Vijay Joshi is about the damage to buildings. Not a serious word about deaths or injuries. How crazy is that? Crazy is probably the wrong term….

CNN on the king and his role

20 05 2010

There has been a ton of rubbish sprouted in Thailand against CNN International and mainly Dan Rivers, claiming he’s essentially sprouting red shirt propaganda. PPT has watched a lot of CNN over the past few days and we’d say these complaints are simply motivated by yellow-shirted hatred of any media that says anything critical of the royalist-military regime in Thailand. We say this because the reporting was, compared with, say, the BBC, more pro-government and certainly produced less controversial clips. However, Rivers has the “biased background” of having reported other “difficulties” for the Abhisit Vejjajiva clique (e.g. the Rohinga issue).

Now, however, the CNN’s US-based network included this report, which is bound to send the royalists ballistic. It isn’t fantastic journalism, but it will be seen as horrendous for the monarchy.

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