Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Nation Has Really Lost the Plot With This Editorial


Sonthi should stay out of politics

The Nation

The CNS chief must reject pressure to run for PM's post or risk ruining the justification for last year's coup

No matter how loud the calls might be getting for General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, the chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS), to enter politics and vie for the premiership, a decision by the general to do so would be the gravest mistake of his life.

One really has to wonder what kind of strange Bizarro world that the editorial writers of The Nation live in, but, and maybe this is just me, but didn't General Sonthi enter politics when he decided to overthrow the last legitimate government and install himself as the ultimate leader with no legal justification whatsoever. Funny that The Nation believes it will be Sonthi's "gravest mistake" to enter electoral politics, but illegal coups are acceptable.

Sonthi must not forget what he said in the announcement made by the junta on the night of the September 19, 2006 coup - that he did not intend to pave the way to govern the country himself by leading the seizure of power. Most Thai people certainly still remember this promise and that means the general must not backtrack on the stance he first took.

Why not? How many times has The Nation said that this was a popular coup backed by the people?

Sonthi's current position as CNS chairman is no less significant than any political post. Making his name in history as the only person to hold such a position is in fact just as honourable an achievement as seeking public respect and recognition through a career as a politician.

The Nation is out of control. It believes being a military dictator is as an "honourable achievement as seeking public respect"..."as a politician" who came to power through a democratic and constitutional process.

Even if Sonthi might be pondering an entry into politics after retiring from his posts as CNS chairman and Army chief, the prospects for his political future are by no means bright.

A military officer by training, the general lacks the skills necessary to cope with cunning political veterans and he has not collected as much wealth as most politicians do to successfully finance their careers.

Get this: The Nation believes that a general who took power away from the most powerful politician in Thailand's modern history and exiled him and took away his money doesn't have the skills of "cunning political veterans. " And, cynically, The Nation infers that you can't become a successful politician without the cash to finance the career.

Sonthi should take into consideration what has happened in the past to his predecessors who became politicians after leaving their careers in the military. Former Army chiefs like General Arthit Kamlangek, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, General Suchinda Kraprayoon and General Chettha Thanajaro saw the successes of their political careers fall far short of the peaks they sought.

General Chavalit may be a bumbling fool, but he never tried to illegally overthrow the government.

By honouring his pledge that the Armed Forces would quickly return democracy to the country after staging a coup to solve a political crisis, Sonthi can help strengthen unity between the people and the military.

These fools at The Nation really amaze me. Where do they come up with this crap? The military stripped the people of their constitutional rights, then thinks that by giving them back their rights, you know, the rights that were stolen, then the military can strengthen the unity between the military and the people. "Strengthen the unity"? What kind of phrase is that?

By not seeking a role in politics, Sonthi's name will go down in a respected place in history as a man who helped save the country without aiming for personal gain.

They've got to be kidding. Sonthi saved the country? Respected place in history? I guess Sonthi will be venerated like Plaek Pibunsongkram and Sarit Thanarat.

After his retirement from the military, people will still remember this good deed and will thus take on a more positive attitude towards the Armed Forces and all their personnel.

Good deed? Positive attitude towards the Armed Forces?

Sonthi is due to retire from the military at the end of September, but the responsibilities of the Armed Forces and their relations with the people will continue without end.

The more the people feel a sense of unity with the Armed Forces, the better the contribution they will make to stronger national security overall.

This prose puts tears in my eyes.

It is not necessary for Sonthi to enter politics and seek to hold onto power in an attempt to guard himself against possible retaliation from the politicians he toppled.

Replace the name "Sonthi" with the name "Thaksin" and see how quickly The Nation will change its tune.

As long as his claim to have done everything to save the country is honest and his record as the head of the CNS is free from corruption, he is legally protected from attempts at vengeance.

Love how The Nation justifies the illegal overthrowing of the government as long as Sonthi was 'honest" and he was personally free from corruption. Now, exactly how many investigative reports did The Nation do that looked into General Sonthi's wealth?

And, The Nation once again proves that it knows nothing and cares nothing about the law when it forgets to mention that the ultimate act of law breaking was ripping apart the 1997 Constitution. But, as long as General Sonthi doesn't take luxury trips like General Saprang and personally enrich his family, then The Nation is cool with all of General Sonthi's treasonous crimes against the state.

Members of the general public, justice bodies and the Armed Forces would be on his side if there were any attempts to get back at him.

In other words, The Nation is in General Sonthi's corner.

Sonthi should not worry about having nothing to do following his retirement.

How sweet! The Nation is concerned with General Sonthi's life after retirement.

With his moderate lifestyle, the pension he will receive should be enough for him and his family to live a happy life. He can make use of his knowledge to write books and give special lectures, as retired leaders do in other countries.

According to The Nation, General Sonthi should become Thailand's Bill Clinton. Lovely.

In the end, it is Sonthi's own sense of integrity that will tell him why he should not enter politics and vie for the premiership.

Only The Nation would call a Thai junta leader a man of integrity.

Calls from certain sections of society and interest groups might be getting louder while some noted fortune-tellers have joined the hype by predicting that Sonthi's star is pointing to a big future in politics.

And maybe if he wears the super duper master of the universe breakfast of champions Jatukam Ramathep amulet that was taken on the last space shuttle flight, he will become Secretary General of the UN, head of Asean, and Thai junta leader for life.

All of this pressure can be successfully ignored if Sonthi remains firm in his stance and refuses to allow himself to be tempted to maintain a grip on political power.

Hmmm. Sonthi couldn't resist pressure for the coup, and went ahead with that, but The Nation believes that Sonthi is too honorable to enter electoral politics because he is a man of integrity able to withstand peer pressure.

At the end of the year, I am going to give out awards for what I think are the most idiotic articles I have ever read by The Nation.

This one will definitely be a top contender.

I'm betting either Thanong or Sophon wrote this.


Anonymous said...

Fonzi take a good hold of your senses man! Your bitterness again at having lost your 'honorable' hero Thaksin Shinawatra are taking over your logical left (or is it right?) brain sense and now all you do is whine and rant all week long against, who else, The Nation News!

There is or are such things as GOOD military men, who will reluctantly do a coup, if they feel the country they were sworn to protect is being endangered by the elected leader, however how popular or loved that elected leader may be, by that elected leaders divisiveness, corruption, runaway greed and criminal abuses of power.
General Ramos of the Philippine is one. There are many more of course. And General Sonthi may yet qualify as a GOOD dictator, if he sticks with his promise to hold the elections soon and then fade away quickly.

Unknown said...

Thanks Matty for stating the obvious. I can't agree more that Mr Shark Fonzi has kept following, biting, whining, ranting, pondering... anything - just anything in The Nation. Does he really earn something from doing this? Please tell me. Such a dream job. I'd like to take it too - reading The Nation day in and day out and rants on my blog. Thanks Matty for keep writing and giving some views (without pay!)

hobby said...

Fonzi still lives in a dream world that Thaksin could have been removed by other means, or worse, that he actually supports the wrongdoings of Thaksin.

Only time will tell what the real motives of Sonthi were, but it's sad that Fonzi cannot believe the motives could have been pure.

Del said...

Fonzi will try his damnest to paint Thaksin Shinawatra as a haloed hero or victim of the conspirational jealous Thai elite.

But just a quick snaphot (no elaborate oil painting needed thank you) will reveal how truly ridiculous Thaksin Shinawatra was or is! That Thaksin worships Khmer voodoo to the extreme had long been well known - - - Thaksin going around in circles at Buriram towns led by the nose by that Buriram hick Nevin convinced such voodoo rituals will keep him, Thaksin, invincible and omnipotent. Just look at Thaksin son Oak (close clone to his superstitious Dad) today adorned with tons of pendants and Jatukams that could break any elephant neck.

Thaksin was a skinflint so extremely Scrooge-like he was cashing out from his Shinawatra enteprise, a family jewel if there was one, convinced that he was selling at the top of the market to Singapore Temasek totally unawares he was Thai PM while doing all sorts of funny facilitating regulations to keep that Shin price going up to the peak and sell-out! So Scrooge-like he totally believed his Khmer voodoo will shield him too from tax liabilites.

Thaksin was so convinced of his Khmer voodoo invincibility after his HONEST MISTAKES victory verdict in 2001 (Constitutional Court ruling), he believed no (bought) judge or jury could touch him . . he kept on with his criminal corruption spree so blatant even Capone would have blushed.

Fonzi may already have been taken in by the Thaksin Khmer voodoo spell that Fonzi gets repeatedly agitated by Nation News or editorials every day!

Rant on Fonzi rant on! If that does not work, you can switch to Khmer voodoo chants in your blogsite any time.

patiwat said...

My take on analysing fonzi:

1. Fixation. As with The Nation being fixated with Thaksin like fonzi claims, he's so obsessed with the paper and vents his hatred day in and day out. Non-paid job, noble initially, but it's getting increasingly pitiful.

2. Getting paid for it. He has never criticised Thaksin. Even entries categorized into such things Thaksin cronies and TRT watch are anything but criticism. Some of such entries even criticized TRT's enemies!!!!

3. No 2 first and No 1 later. (Mixing business with pleasure now as you will)

4. Severe substance abuse. Some rants do make me think so. Read his attitude toward Suu Kyi and you'll know what I mean. For all the ranting about democracy blah blah , he slipped. Worse, he didn't care about it.

5. Anyway, it still can be No 2 first, No 1 later and then No. 4 eventually.

6. Misplaced brain cells. Lately he does look abnormal. But he remains extremely focused at The Nation and a bit of Bangkok Post so time will tell.

7. And as usual, it can be No 5 causing No 6 or shoving him close to it.

My two cents.

Anonymous said...

"At the end of the year, I am going to give out awards for what I think are the most idiotic articles I have ever read by The Nation." - Fonzi

When you write inane sentences like these Fonzi, it is easy why many would presume you are on substance abuse.

Maybe both stevie g and myself would just categorize your every blog from now on according to stevie g's 1-to-7 slots . . .

ChiangRaiMan said...

I guess that Fonzi and Asian Human Rights Commission has got it all wrong...Read the article...

ChiangRaiMan said...

anon said...

Guys, don't you have anything better to do than defend people that you admit are dictators?

The Thaksin era is over. Why can't you guys use just a fraction of the hatred you felt against Thaksin and focus it on the human rights abuses of the junta? The same junta that has criminalized any criticism of the draft constitution. The same junta that has restricted freedom of speech and assembly. The same junta that uses the Kingdom's coffers as a personal slush fund.

Instead you moan on and on about voodoo and all that tired old crap. By cursing one tyrant and praising another, you've become part of the problem, not the solution.

hobby said...

Patiwat: "The Thaksin era is over"

Tell that to Jakrapob & co.

anon said...

Hobby, will you continue to ignore the injustices of the military regime until every last supporter of Thaksin is silenced or banned from politics?

Face it: not everybody who is disgusted with the junta is a Thaksin supporter. You can't keep on flinging your voodoo crap at them all.

hobby said...

Patiwat: As I said over at New Mandala, I don't want to let the junta off the hook, but I am wary of playing into Thaksin's hands.

I am happy to let the junta defeat Thaksin (first), and then the people can defeat the junta.

I know it's not a perfect strategy, and risks playing into the junta's hands, but IMO it's better than playing into Thaksin's hands and allowing him to make a comeback to resume his plunder with a vengeance.
(BTW have you seem him show any remorse or apology for any of his actions?)

And yes, I know the generals are probably undertaking their own plunder (or planning to), but they seem to be under a lot of scrutiny and are not as competent (slippery) as Thaksin.

Maybe it is wishful thinking, but I think the world and Thailand has moved on and it will be easier to rise above the generals than a resurgent Thaksin.

anon said...

Scrutiny? What scrutiny?

Can you launch impeachment proceedings against the junta? No. Can parliament initiate a vote of no confidence against the junta? No. Can you threaten not to vote for an MP if he doesn't criticize the junta? No. Does the judiciary or legislature have any oversight over junta-declared laws? No. Does the OAG or the AEC have a mandate to investigate junta corruption? No. Are newspapers spending their time scrutinizing the present junta rather than repeating junta propaganda about how evil the previous government was? No. Can you freely assemble in public and try to pressure the junta to be accountable to the public? No. Can you start a blog or a community radio show criticizing the junta and not expect to get censored? No.

Your hatred of Thaksin is blinding you to the injustices that are being visited upon your countrymen.

hobby said...

Patiwat, the thrust of my comment was that IMO it would be worse to allow Thaksin (or his stooges) back as a hero, than to let the junta stumble along to the next election.
Even if he cannot personally come back just yet, I still don't think Thaksin is really finished and I suspect he is still pulling the strings of a few puppets left in Thailand.

BTW, I don't particularly like the junta, but you are right - at this stage I dislike Thaksin more than I dislike the junta - time will tell if I keep that opinion.
Based on their performance to date, the junta is actually quite soft and not as ruthless as some like to make out - judging by recent tourism numbers & SET levels, it would seem that at least a few people agree.

Can you launch impeachment proceedings against the junta? No.

Not really relevant, unless they don't allow elections to be held.
BTW, the junta cannot even get the Thaksin family to front up to court because they keep sending doctors notes or are busy having business meetings!

Can parliament initiate a vote of no confidence against the junta? No.

Again not relevant, unless they don't allow elections.

Can you threaten not to vote for an MP if he doesn't criticize the junta? No.

I base my vote on policies - you are free to do the same (sorry if you cannot vote for Thaksin anymore, but that's just as much his fault as anybody's)
BTW, I'm not in the habit of threatening anybody, least of all an MP!

Does the judiciary or legislature have any oversight over junta-declared laws? No.

Some of the proposed laws are a worry, but ultimately laws can be changed by a new parliament.
The electorate should be able to help sort that out (or are you worried that the electorate is not that sophisticated?)

Does the OAG or the AEC have a mandate to investigate junta corruption? No.

Their hands are full at the moment anyway.

Are newspapers spending their time scrutinizing the present junta rather than repeating junta propaganda about how evil the previous government was? No.

It looks like some are.
(unfortunately the shadow of Thaksin is still around, so I suspect many are treading a fine line for fear of tipping the balance back in Thaksin's favor)

Can you freely assemble in public and try to pressure the junta to be accountable to the public? No.

Again, the shadow of Thaksin is probably still the big worry (unfortunate, but understandable)

Can you start a blog or a community radio show criticizing the junta and not expect to get censored? No.

You should be alright now, as long as you are not a Thaksin stooge.

I hold you in high regard irrespective of your opposing opinions, so please let me know the link to your blog when you get it going.

Del said...

Ahhh Patiwat the man who feels that Thaksin can do no wrong, or all his wrongs, including extrajudicial killings, tax cheating and criminal corruption were oooookay, because there was trickle down effect on the poor!

But Hobby is right. Thaksin is more dangerous than all the generals of Thailand put together. Generals have their guns but they hesitate. Thaksin even without the guns would order to shoot any suspicious looking black listed man, woman or child on a whim or whatever!

Tell me Patiwat . . is there anything, just one thing, about Thaksin that would make you puke? But I guess Patiwat you too have been seduced by that Thaksin backside aroma . .

anon said...

Again, hatred of Thaksin is blinding you guys to the tyranny of the junta. Tell me, is there anything, just one thing, about the junta that would make you puke?

Recall that Thaksin did allow elections. Maybe the April 2006 elections weren't run by the best Election Commission, but eventually the King got those guys jailed and appointed a yellow shirted EC, that would have held a clean election in October had the junta not cancelled it. And then junta drafted a constitution which doesn't exactly guarantee clean elections either.

The junta's laws can be changed by a new elected parliament. Except that the worst of the laws have already been enforced - laws forbidding freedom of assembly, speech, and political activity - and have resulted in punishment of people guilty of nothing more than exercise of their fundamental human rights.

As for how effectively the "free" press is scrutinizing the junta, are you actually reading Fonzie's posts to this blog at all?

Hobby, basically, you're just saying that the junta is supportive of human rights, just as long as those rights aren't exercised to criticize the dictatorship. You've really lost the plot!

hobby said...

Patiwat: It all comes down to whether you think Thaksin needed to be removed or not.

If you don't think he needed to be removed, then that's the end of the story - to you the coup will be illegal and you are unable to accept anything that follows from the coup.

If you think he needed to be removed, then you need to consider how that would have been possible.
Unfortunately he refused to resign, and neither his party, nor the electorate, could keep him in check.

Fonzi's dreams of impeachment were never going to happen whilst Thaksin dominated the 'system'.

The coup got rid of Thaksin, and offers a chance to restart the 'democratic' process.
It was not my preferred way of removing Thaksin, but once it happened I accepted it.

I readily admit that I do not like some of the things the junta is doing, but if the choice is Thaksin as PM, or the junta and a chance at a new start without Thaksin, you know my choice.

I will try again to explain my reasons:

Thailand (& the world) is not perfect - it was not perfect under Thaksin, and it is not perfect under the junta.
IMO, the human rights abuses under Thaksin were far worse than any under the junta (so far).

There is probably corruption under the junta, and there was corruption under Thaksin, including policy corruption - Thaksin had 5 years and there was no end in sight. The junta have only been in power 9 months and should be gone within another 6 months, so I am not overly worried on that scale (Sad, but a fact of life).

By all means try to moderate the worst aspects of the junta, BUT if the junta collapses, you know who will be back as a hero (for a while), and eventually we will be back to 2006 again anyway.

You can take what you think is the high ground by saying Thaksin was elected, but that does not wash with me because I have had little faith in 'democracy' since I was a youngster (many years ago).

I have such a dim view of democracy that I usually prefer coalition governments over a dominant party being in power, because there is more room for moderation (compromise) when one party is not dominant.
Most observers think the new constitution will deliver a coalition government, so it fits with my desires.

That said I do recognize the achievements in Singapore of a dominant government, but I think that is a different beast, and Thaksin was more in the Marcos mould than a LKY.

That brings me to a question: Could you live in Singapore, or would you be too concerned about human rights to live there?

ChiangRaiMan said...

Seems even the Bangkok post is losing their love affair with the junta.

Del said...

The military already disappoints with the slow progress containing the Southern unrest and the junta reactivating General Panlop(the self-confessed assassin)already surely would draw my puke.

But the junta, even with their bungling ways, are still ON TARGET with the constitutional rewrite and the election to follow after that. That is commendable in my book Patiwat! For someone like you Patiwat who only believes "election is all that matters in a democracy", that should come as gift and you would be thankful too to the junta, yes?

ChiangRaiMan said...


Beware of news editors who write about "stakeholders." The word may be popular among the staff of international development agencies, producing clouded reports about projects that they have never seen, but it is usually avoided by journalists, who are expected to be more straightforward.

The fact that "stakeholders" appeared no less than four times in a single Bangkok Post feature last week should set alarm bells ringing about the condition of journalism in Thailand. The unidentified writer praised the special tribunal that had dissolved the overthrown Thai Rak Thai party and advised everyone that its verdict should be universally accepted, serve as a lesson for unscrupulous politicians that they must play by the rules, and that all stakeholders should just cooperate and move on.

The same person could have written the editorial in the country's second English daily, The Nation. Although the stakeholders were gone, in a few hundred words the author managed to cram in reconciliation, good governance, public accountability, and, in a final mind-numbing paragraph, political ideology, socio-economic status, effective citizenship, genuine democracy based on the rule of law, and "a conducive environment for sustainable economic and social development."

Such writing is offensive because it denies readers the opportunity to think and react. It has the opposite effect of real journalism, anaesthetizing rather than awakening society. "The great enemy of clear language," George Orwell said in his seminal essay on politics and English usage, "is insincerity." Insincere prose is unpleasant to read because while the truth may not be obvious, the struggle to obscure it with nonsense is all too apparent.

Few newspapers in Thailand nowadays report or comment with any sincerity. Whereas the previous decade saw a dramatic rise in their assertiveness, the bullying and goading tactics of the Thaksin Shinawatra government encouraged renewed self-censorship. Among those writers and publishers that resisted Thaksin, many have since been shameless cheerleaders for the junta that pushed him out last September. Alternative opinions, occasionally entertained, give the illusion of continued debate; they are greatly outnumbered by narrow reporting and uncritical commentary. Yet even against this backdrop, the response to the May 30 ruling was a new low.

No doubt the former prime minister and his people manipulated laws and institutions to their commercial and political advantage. They intimidated opponents, precipitated killings and encouraged police excesses. But the superior courts were already examining and proceeding on suits lodged against him and his party prior to the military coup last year. Had they been left alone to rule on the government at that time, in accordance with the 1997 Constitution, then there may indeed have been a great day for justice in Thailand of the sort that was pronounced last week.

Instead, what happened was that a tribunal appointed by the military regime under its interim constitution was given the role of pretending to decide on something that was already settled from the moment that the army took power, applying a law established under the abrogated constitution together with an order from the coup leader. The cynical use of senior judges to do a dirty job for which the generals did not want to be directly responsible was no triumph of justice: it was a travesty that will almost certainly cause lasting damage to public confidence in the country's entire judiciary.

But there was no room for doubt about the tribunal's findings in most newspaper editorials and reports the morning after. Blinded by euphoria at the apparent end to Thaksin's political vehicle, and corrupted by the moral and legal pollution of dictatorship, editors and writers feigning objectivity sought refuge in humbug. Only here and there were cautious questions raised about the validity of the judgment and jurisdiction of the tribunal, again greatly outnumbered by those reassuring readers that from now on everything will be okay, so long as everyone just plays by the rules. Never mind whose rules.

Whatever else happens in Thailand during the weeks and months ahead, the newspapers won't quickly or easily regain the voice and credibility that they have lost in the last nine months. Readers interested in getting an honest opinion about events there should instead turn to the Internet, if they have not done so already. In addition to news available via the international media, there are a number of useful regional and national Web sites, such as Asia Sentinel and Prachatai. There are also many good blogs, like Bangkok Pundit and New Mandala. If enough people turn away from conventional sources, perhaps editors will realize that by persistently insulting the intelligence of their readers they risk much more than just their integrity.


(Awzar Thi is the pen name of a member of the Asian Human Rights Commission with over 15 years of experience as an advocate of human rights and the rule of law in Thailand and Burma.)

Del said...

"But the superior courts were already examining and proceeding on suits lodged against him and his party prior to the military coup last year. Had they been left alone to rule on the government at that time, in accordance with the 1997 Constitution, then there may indeed have been a great day for justice in Thailand of the sort that was pronounced last week." - Chiangrai man spinning . . spinning . . trying to daze into numbness to forget or forgive or whatever the suborning ways of Thaksin Shinawatra that must surely have infiltrated every justice court, supreme or lowly!