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.

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