Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Deconstructing Suthichai Yoon: Hypocritical Column on Debate over the New Charter


The hidden snags in the constitution referendum

Suthichai Yoon

The Nation

These are such sensitive times. Feelings are easily hurt. Egos demand special treatment. You can offend friends without even realising you have done it - especially when you start asking them whether they will vote for or against the draft of the new constitution.

If you tell them they should go for it, your colleagues might think you are nothing but a lackey of the coup leaders. You aren't critical enough. You aren't fighting for democracy.

If, on the other hand, you tell them to reject the draft, they stare you in the eye before asking: "You got paid by that guy too?" They would, whether you like it or not, assume that you have always been a die-hard hopelessly pro-Thaksin supporter.

For some strange reason, we Thais have managed to excel in a painting of a special kind - painting ourselves into a corner, especially a political one. And we spend most of our productive time these days trying to wriggle out of this Catch-22 situation.

Is Suthichai for real? Does this idiot even bother to read his own paper? Suthichai is the last person to wring his hands about Manichean debates in Thai politics, because he and his paper have been mostly responsible for making Thai politics a story about anti-Thaksin and pro-Thaksin camps.

The editorial stance of his newspaper and all of his columnists for the last six months has been that anybody who is against the junta is bought and paid for by Thaksin. Anybody who doesn't take the exact same editorial stance of The Nation is bought and paid for by Thaksin. I have blogged about this endlessly. But Suthichai thinks his audience is stupid and hasn't been paying attention.

The current "constitution dilemma" once again confirms the validity of the axiom that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Old Suthichai can't resist using overused cliches in his columns also.

The coup leaders staged the September 19 military takeover last year with a sense of guilt perhaps. They then bent over backward to make sure the putsch was an exercise in using "an undemocratic means to a democratic end".

How was "the putsch" "an exercise in using '''an undemocratic means to a democratic end.'''

And when they went through the motions of drafting a "democratic" interim constitution, one of their legal wise men had the bright idea at the height of their desperate search for legitimacy to say, "Let's do something Thai democracy has never had the guts to do before - let's put the draft constitution to a referendum".

There was nothing "democratic" about the interim constitution.

If you thought the coup-makers were genuinely handing over real power to the masses, and that all they wanted was to get rid of Thaksin and nothing else, then you would have been badly mistaken. In that same interim charter they have also made sure that they retain the final say.

Funny. The Nation has been trumpeting the democratic intentions of this junta all along. How can we forget right after the coup how The Nation went after any foreign newspaper or media outlet that didn't agree with its party line, which was that the junta was good, brave and true and Thaksin was the spawn of the devil that had to be eliminated?

Interesting that those faux democrats at The Nation never complained before that the junta would have the last word when it came to the outcome of the referendum, the constitution writing process, and the new elections. Indeed, why should it complain when The Nation has been the junta's biggest backer and has been paid back by the extra airtime on Thai TV and eliminating its biggest competitor, iTV.

Herein lies the rub. If not defused in time, this time bomb threatens to explode into a political conflagration.

The idea of the referendum is to seek public legitimacy for the country's constitution. However, since members of the public can only cast a "yes" or "no" vote, they can easily be swayed by only one or two clauses with which they personally have problems.

It is impossible to make everybody happy. Reasonable people will make reasonable decisions. Thai constitutions are treated with less respect and dignity than toilet paper by the powers at be so I don't see how anybody will take this new constitution seriously. I would say many of us are convinced that if there is another political crisis the new constitution, regardless of how liberal or conservative it is, will be ripped up by the military again. I'm sure if the next elections don't turn out as The Nation wants them to turn out, the columnists will cry and throw their typical temper tantrums until the military overthrows the elected government that it doesn't like. That is the nature of the Thai media, especially The Nation.

In any normal democratic practice, a "no" vote should register as the dissatisfaction of individuals seeking better conditions. Not this one. A negative ballot in the upcoming referendum (tentatively scheduled for September 3) could send the draft constitution back to the coup leaders who, according to the interim constitution, have the sweeping power, together with the Cabinet, to dust off any of the previous constitutions and declare it the national charter within 30 days.

The junta actually painted itself in a corner, because they wouldn't dare pick one of the reactionary constitutions as an alternative.

What it boils down to is that we have all been put somewhere between a rock and a hard place - damned if you do and damned if you don't.

More of Suthichai's idiotic cliches. Suthichai's overuse of cliches is just more proof that he is a horrible newspaper editor. In the real world, a professional editor would never tolerate this.

As a result, any attempt at an informed debate over the details of each controversial clause has been rendered irrelevant because you would have to win all of your arguments to feel you were correct in voting "yes". And if there is a particular point that you feel strongly about - and you lose out as a dissident, minority voice - any thought about rejecting the draft would haunt your conscience even more. By casting a "no" ballot in the referendum, you would in effect be handing over the whole exercise to the coup leaders.

No, not exactly. The possibility exists that this constitution can pass and be amended in the future. Or we can do it the Thai way and just have one coup after another for eternity.

They threw some colourful toys at us, promising that we could play to our hearts' content - only if we behaved ourselves. We know and they know that they can snatch them back anytime.

Som Nam Na. The Nation begged for this coup. Now it is complaining about the consequences. Unfortunately, the majority of us have to suffer because of the myopic, selfish crowd of Thaksin haters.

Remember what the good old pros used to warn us about, and how we thought they were being hopelessly cynical? Be careful what you ask for. You might just get it.

And so it ends with more horrible cliches.


Unknown said...

Thai constitutions are treated with less respect and dignity than toilet paper by the powers at be so I don't see how anybody will take this new constitution seriously.

Well, remember toilet paper enjoys a much more elevated status in Thai life. Just today I needed to take photos in a photo shop, and she asked me if I would like a fabric (paa) to wipe my face. When she tore off a dozen plies of toilet paper, I just politely replied, "no thanks, where I am from that is for your butt."

hobby said...

Fonzi: Judging by this editorial, The Nation, is not as worthless as you make out:
Keep Buddhism from exploiters

hobby said...

I forgot to add:
Unfortunately it looks like the editors might be fighting a losing battle, and the demise of true Buddhism looks set to continue.

Anonymous said...

Stop complaining about being bought or not, blogger. You seem so sensitive about this. When journalists, columnists or bloggers or writers sell their souls, nothing's relevant. Just go on. If you do it sincerely, go ahead. If you are bought, nothing can be done about it. I see that you call columnists "whores" as well. Just scroll down your own blog and check it out.

Steven Gerrard

Fonzi said...


Are you drunk? What are you babbling on about?

You sound like Suthichai when he is babbling incoherently on TV.

Btw, no blogger would ever "sell his soul" for writing about Thai politics. Not a worthy trade.

And I certainly haven't sold my soul to Google, since it hasn't paid me anything, and won't anytime in the future.

But I'm sure Google would prefer I discussed whores who sell their bodies because I'm sure not pulling any traffic exposing the whores who sell themselves at The Nation in support of a junta.