Thursday, September 20, 2007

Deconstructing Kavi Chongkittavorn: Coup Apologist Gets "Democracy Award" From US for "Being Tireless Campaigner for Press Freedom "(Puke Alert!)

National Endowment for Democracy 2007 Democracy Award Honorees

Kavi Chongkittavorn

A tireless campaigner for press freedom throughout Southeast Asia and, indeed, throughout the world, Kavi Chongkittavorn is the assistant group editor of Nation Media Group, publisher of The Nation, Krungthep Turakij and Kom Chat Luek in Thailand. Kavi has been a journalist for more than two decades, covering Thai and regional politics. He was a bureau chief in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from 1988-1990 and Hanoi, Vietnam from 1990-1992. He also served as special assistant to the secretary general at the Jakarta-based Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from 1993-1994 before returning to journalism.

In 1993, Kavi was a Reuters Fellow at Oxford, and in 2001, a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He was named the Human Rights Journalist of 1998 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights by Amnesty International, Thailand. From 1999-2003, he was the president of Thai Journalists Association. Since 1999, he has chaired the Bangkok-based regional free media advocacy group, Southeast Asian Press Alliance. Kavi also serves as Jury President for the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, UNESCO, which consists of fourteen professional journalists and editors from all over the world. Under his leadership, UNESCO awarded its press freedom prize posthumously to Anna Politkovskaya at its recent conference in Colombia.

For the record, I don't have anything personal against Kavi, and out of all the crap columnists at The Nation, he is by far the best.

But let's face it: Kavi is no democrat and he is not a promoter of press freedom. After all, he works for The Nation, a newspaper that caved to Thaksin when he was in power and has for the last year been a propaganda mouthpiece for the junta. Regardless if you are pro-Thaksin or anti-Thaksin, no democrat of any stripe can honestly support a coup d'tat as a means of changing government. Indeed, a military coup is the antithesis of democracy. But Kavi was a coup supporter; he did and said nothing when the junta restricted free speech against his political enemies, did and said nothing as the South has been consumed by civil war, did and said nothing as bloggers and pro-Thaksin advocates have been jailed, did and said nothing as generals took up positions at state enterprises, did and said nothing while the country was still under martial law during the referendum for the general's constitution.

The Democracy Award is supposed to be for journalists who have taken a stand for democracy and have stood against dictatorship and authoritarian politics.

What courageous position has Kavi ever taken? Did he he write investigative reports, uncovering corruption and malfeasance in Thai politics during the Thaksin years? No . Has Kavi done any courageous investigative journalism concerning the military junta this past year? No.
Has Kavi gone into the heart of the Deep South and gotten to the heart of the problems down there? Nope. How many times has Kavi risked his life to get a story in the South? Never. During his whole career, has Kavi ever written a story where he put his life and career at risk for the cause of liberal democracy and political freedom? The answer is no. Has Kavi ever risked his life to report on politics in neighboring Burma? The answer is no.

I can't think of one activity in Kavi's whole career where he deserved to get a Democracy Award.

And even if he did, it would be canceled out by his support of an illegal military coup that abrogated the constitution and sent Thailand back to the political dark ages.

Here is Kavi's post-coup column where he justified the coup rather than condemned it.

I have been outraged by this whole Democracy Award all day. I shall be writing letters to every major newspaper and political blog in the US, and I shall be contacting Congressmen and Senators to tell the truth about Kavi's abysmal record concerning his faux support for press freedom and liberal democracy in Thailand. It is a travesty he should get this award when there are other journalists out there who have actually risked life and limb to investigate and tell the truth. Plus, there are many journalists(none whom work at The Nation or Bangkok Post) in Thailand who deserve this award more than Kavi. The journalists over at Prachatai, for example, have done far more courageous journalism this last year than anything Kavi has done at The Nation his entire career.


Unknown said...

This is truly sad news for me, considering that NUAMTHONG gave his life in protest of the coup and in defence of democracy. And while people were thrown in jail for public opposition of the putsch or for free expression in cyber blogs, where was this "tireless campaigner" for freedom?

This is what I commented on your post May 4:

"Sycophants like the Yoons and the Yongs, the Thanongs and the Sophons grovel and brown-nose at the altar of the powerfuls unashamedly and unapologetically but that's what make Kavi the worst of the lot. He is less servile on the surface but as the first anonymous comment demonstrates, Kavi is more dishonest. 

Go back and read his previous column pieces, and you will discover passages that sing of more freedom of the press under the military junta and the tired and failed arguments for the putsch. Has anyone read a contrarion view of the putsch from Kavi? 

Why bemoan the state of press freedom now when a few columns back, Kavi wrote that there is more freedom under the junta's rule than Thaksin's? What a hypocrite.

Kavi's "expertise" is a mile-wide and an inch deep when it comes to understanding regional politics and regional organizations. His fondness for the concept of "community" belie his ignorance of East and Southeast Asian history and global power alignment and he has never come across a press release or briefing from the ASEAN secretariat that he doesn't like or fail to regurgitate into another column article. Everytime I read his pieces on 
ASEAN-as-community-and-catalyst-for-peace-unity-prosperity-for-Asia-and-a-bridge-to-the-world, I wonder why someone would embarrass himself so publicly. 

And when he does not embarrass himself with regional topics, he makes stupid regurgitations like this in his blog. Speculating on who might become C-in-C of the Army, Kavi said Saprang will be appointed. The very next sentence: but someone else could be chosen. And he gets paid for that!

All the columns of The Nation should begin with a warning: Consuming the below rubbish could be hazardous to your intelligence.

May 4, 2007 3:45 PM""

Michael Conners' view on regionalism had me in stitches.

Unapologetic advocates like The Manager or the Sophons or the Yongs and the Yoons (wonder how he got overlooked by the NE) fool no one but a servile and dishonest Kavi must be exposed for the fraud he is.

Fonzi, you might want to rethink qualifying Kavi as the best of the lot. For my money, I'll take Chang Noi, Supalak, and Pravit over Kavi any day.

For purposes of transparency, I do not know Kavi except through his columns. I do not own shares of the Nation nor shares of its competitors. Any epithets and expressions of disgust are purely provoked.

Fonzi said...

Yeah, I remember your post from before.

When I say Kavi is the best, I mean the best of the six regular columnists who publish every week.

Philosophically, I agree with your analysis about Kavi's hypocrisy, or I wouldn't have written this blog post, but as a statement of fact, I agree with his columns more than the rest(of the six regulars).

Chang Noi and Supalak are better writers than Kavi. Of all the English language writers, Chang Noi by far a head above the rest.

And Pravit is the only one with any courage to take an anti-Yoon bother/Sopon/Tulsie stand over there.

Jotman said...

I share your dismay. This is an outrage. It shows how US foundations are increasingly too comfortable, lazy, and out of touch. More on this, I have just posted.

Fonzi said...


I agree with your assessment about Kavi being chosen for his resume more than for his body of work.

Obviously, nobody at the NED did their homework.