Friday, May 11, 2007

Deconstructing Atiya Achakulwisut: Courageous Critical Column Attacking General Sonthi

No time for a general to play games


Atiya Achakulwisut

Bangkok Post

Chairman of the Council for National Security Gen Sonthi Boonyaratkalin reassures no one with his excuse that he was misled into accepting a petition calling for the removal of PM Surayud Chulanont. At best, the lame apology heralds to the public that our chief of security is clueless not only about the goings-on inside the country -- he has no idea what the network of Isan people led by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) member Chaiwat Sinsuwong was up to -- but also about the efficiency of his own staff. If true, the excuse that he was misinformed about the agenda and thus canceled other things to receive the group because he thought they would brief him about the political undercurrent in the Northeast, reflects badly on the capability of the general himself. If the CNS chairman can be duped that easily, what hope do we have? At worst, the scenario conjures up deja vu of an ominous kind. The meeting followed the exact same pattern as the one between Gen Sonthi and his namesake, Manager Media chief and a PAD leader, Sondhi Limthongkul, at the height of the protests to oust then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in February last year. Even the claim by Chaiwat and Sondhi after meeting the general is almost the same: that Gen Sonthi listened to them attentively and would consider their request, to get rid of the PM, then and now. Gen Sonthi's reaction to news about both meetings was also the same --to deny that he actually intended to receive, lend weight or give endorsement to the PM busters. Truth be told, seven months after the meeting between Gen Sonthi and Sondhi --widely seen as an invitation by the PAD for the military to take over-- the former led the Sept 19 coup that successfully toppled former PM Thaksin.

Absolutely amazing, calls General Sonthi a two faced liar, a conspirator, and a bumbling fool all in one paragraph. I have to admit that this is courageous writing.

Chaiwat's connection with the PAD --which has been calling for PM Surayud's resignation as well --and by extension Sondhi, is obvious. Gen Sonthi's deja vu action leaves a lot of room for doubt, which is just what the country can't afford at this critical moment when so many things will be coming together.

Some of these doubts would include whether Gen Sonthi would resort to staging another coup to oust his former army boss? Who would be the replacement premier? Would he or she stick to the same deadline for the general election? Or are we looking at a ''postpone until further notice'' sign regarding the country's attempt to return to democracy?

No confidence in Sonthi at all. Is the writing on the wall with this column?

None of these questions bodes well for a country struggling to regain its footing. Abroad, Thailand is trying very hard to explain to the world, and the United States in particular, about the need for compulsory licensing of two Aids drugs and one heart medication, to avoid further trade sanctions. Domestically, we are grappling with a downturn in the economy whose painful effects are beginning to be felt by a number of people, and the ongoing violence in the deep South which threatens to get out of hand with each passing day.

In other words, these idiot generals don't know what they are doing in terms of international politics, the economy, and domestic problems.

Under the circumstances, Gen Sonthi has no room for lame excuses. He must start showing smartness in his moves. Tough issues await, including the verdict over the possible dissolution of the Democrat and Thai Rak Thai parties, which is due at the end of this month and has the potential to stir strong emotions in millions of supporters of each party. Such a strenuous situation demands a strong and capable hand. The public would be hard pressed to place their trust in a security chief who is so easily misled by his own people or by a group of people with vested interests; or in someone who seems unhappy with the running of the country but can't seem to do anything to make it better.

Absolutely amazing. Atiya has got some big cahones.

Gen Sonthi has recently begun riding in the bullet-proof Mercedes once used by ousted PM Thaksin. Gen Surayud is also reported to have a brand new four-wheel vehicle equipped with a receiver-transmitter capable of detecting and jamming telephone signals used in detonating bombs. But in the deep South, men from their old affiliation, the Special Forces, were bombed while riding in a military pick-up with no back-up vehicle; each of them was shot dead execution-style after that. This is no time for the generals to play games. Both Gen Sonthi and PM Surayud must get their act together or risk ruining everything.

I have been following the news for a long time. I don't think I have read an op-ed like this from one of the two English dailies, ever.

Damn, I want to kiss Atiya. Where has she been all this time? She has a lot of guts.

Those idiots at The Nation need to take writing and courage lessons from the new love of my life.


anon said...

Atiya is one of the better journalists out there. A Fulbright Scholar, actually. Read an earlier editorial exposing the hypocrisy of the national-religion crusaders for another good example. The reason you might not have seen the byline a lot is because it more often appeared in the Post's Outlook section.

Anonymous said...

She has this to say in the article:

"It's not like you can say you are a good Buddhist and drink alcohol or lie on a regular basis."

"If Thai Buddhism is staggering, it is because of the weaknesses within. Does it hurt too much to admit to one's shortcomings? Is it more difficult to try to solve the long-accumulated problems than to secure an impressive nameplate and hope that it covers up the rot inside?"

"I am a Thai. I am also a Buddhist. And I feel ashamed."

And I, Atiya, am impressed.