Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Deconstructing Thepchai Yong: Disappointed Junta Didn't Rid Thailand of his Political Enemies (Thaksinistas)

Failure of post-coup reforms to be felt in election

Thepchai Yong

The Nation

Many Thais think they are facing a dilemma.

They want an election and yet they fear a return of the "old power clique".

He means, I am afraid of a return of the Thaksinistas, because of what will happen to my career if they do, but is too intellectually dishonest to say it. Of course, Thepchai won't admit that the coup was good for his star power and that it brought him exposure on Thai TV, because the junta rid the airways of the Thaksin elements and replaced them with him and his brother.

While the general election tentatively slated for December 23 offers the best promise of putting Thailand back on the path to democracy, it also raises the spectre of a new round of political confrontation. The September 19 coup succeeded in ousting Thaksin Shinawatra from power, but failed to stamp out his political influence, especially among his supporters in most parts of the North and Northeast.

It is nice to see that an editor of a major newspaper believes in political cleansing. Is Thepchai the Thai version of Joseph Goebells? "Stamp out" is a very strident phrase when referring to one's own countrymen, as if they were undesirables who needed to be eliminated.

The military junta was given a taste of its own medicine in August when the referendum on a new constitution, which it hoped would put the final nail in Thaksin's coffin, turned out to be a major embarrassment. The more than 10 million votes against the charter were certainly no accident. They were the result of a carefully orchestrated and well-funded campaign by forces still loyal to the former leader.

Funny, I follow the Thai news quite closely, yet didn't read of any investigative reports on how Thaksin "carefully orchestrated" a "well-funded campaign" to vote down the 2007 Constitution.

Besides being a slap in the face for the Council for National Security (CNS), more significantly the large "no vote" also served as a disturbing prelude to the general election. The results of the referendum demonstrated beyond any doubt that with his political clout and wealth largely intact despite efforts by the junta to clip his financial wings, Thaksin is still a force to be reckoned with.

Demonstrated beyond a doubt? Where is the proof?

The choice of political firebrand Samak Sundaravej as leader of the People Power Party (PPP) was also a well-calculated move. Samak, with his no-holds-barred political style, is exactly the kind of politician that Thaksin needs, both to hold the reincarnation of his defunct Thai Rak Thai together and to confront the military junta. And Samak has no qualms about admitting that he is serving as "Thaksin's nominee" - an unmistakable message to Thaksin loyalists that the former prime minister is closely watching them from thousands of miles away.

Again, where is the hard evidence for this conspiracy theory? Oh, that's right. The Nation never needs evidence to back up its accusations.

It's an open secret that huge amounts of money have been continually channelled from outside the country to pro-Thaksin forces to sustain the loyalty of constituencies in the North and Northeast. And it shouldn't surprise anyone that the PPP will be going into the general election with the most formidable war chest.

Where are the investigative reports? Where is the linkage? Where are the witnesses? Where was the money channeled from and to whom?

Thepchai talks about war chest, yet none of his papers actually report on campaign financing.

Thaksin might be down, but he is definitely far from out. Despite all the efforts of the coup-makers to discredit the former leader, most voters in the North and Northeast are still oblivious to the charges of corruption and abuse of power that have been levelled against Thaksin and his associates. Both the junta and the Surayud government have obviously done a poor job in communicating with rural constituents.

What arrogance? How many newspapers does Thepchai contribute to? How often is he on TV spouting his nonsense on Thai public TV? This notion that Thai upcountry folk don't know anything about Thaksin's corruption is ridiculous coming from a major anti-Thaksin campaigner who has been part and parcel of Thailand's official propaganda structure for decades. He is basically admitting that he is a total failure as a propagandist. Of course when he writes unsubstantiated articles like this one, it doesn't surprise me that nobody believes what comes out of his mouth.

The rejuvenated ex-Thai Rak Thai loyalists and their well-oiled network of canvassers have been far more effective in painting Thaksin as a victim of a political vendetta. All indications are that the closer the election gets, the more confident the PPP is in its ability to fend off any threat in the country's two biggest regions.

Again, where is the evidence of this campaign? Regardless, why shouldn't the PPP be confident? What other parties are competitive in the North and Northeast? Certainly not the Democrats, who I reckon won't do too well, not because of the Thaksin political machine, but because they usually aren't competitive in those regions. Is Kraisak going to bring the Northeast into the fold? Probably not.

Despite years of attempted political reforms, money still decides election outcomes. And the upcoming election will be the same. And guess who has all the money in the world and is willing to spend it to buy his political resurrection?

Thaksin has all the money in the world, yet most of it has been confiscated by the government.

Even political groups and parties opposed to Thaksin admit that all the bad publicity about him in the Thai media has done little to put a dent in his popularity. And given his willingness to expend his wealth, the likelihood is that the PPP will emerge with the most number of seats in the election.

Look at this elitist presumption: Thaksin's political fortitude only stems from how much money he is willing to dish out. Again, no evidence, no hard reporting.

But with most other political parties allied against it, it's still a question of whether it will be in a position to lead a coalition government.

But that kind of political scenario is already scary enough for those who foresee another period of political instability or even confrontation. A PPP victory at the polls would be seen as Thaksin's political vindication. It would provide him with the legitimacy he needs to reclaim his political role.

Thaksin won't be on the ballot. He won't be member of the government. As long as the king breathes, he won't ever become PM again, so what the hell is he talking about?

However, one cannot entirely blame Thaksin and his political loyalists for the political dilemma the country may be facing. The junta and the Surayud government had their chance to dismantle Thaksin's political machine and wean those in the rural areas away from his populist appeal. But they were simply inept at carrying out the job.

If a journalist talked like this in any other civilized country in the world, he would be fired instantly. Could you imagine the Republicans in the US saying, well if only we dismantled the Democratic political machine and weaned those pesky ignorant blacks off of welfare while we were in power, everything would be good.

The various political parties, particularly the Democrats, have also failed miserably to capitalise on Thaksin's political misfortune. Their lack of leadership and credible platforms has disappointed many who are looking for a potential alternative to Thaksin's rule

If only those Democrats had taken advantage of the coup and the elimination of their political competitors, then everything would be good. This really is sick.

Postponing the election - a move advocated by many still haunted by Thaksin's ghost - will do little to alter the political course. At the end of day, the old saying that people get the government they deserve still holds true.

Thepchai's arrogance never ceases to amaze me. He and Sopon are really sick in the head. They actually believe that the Thai military should systematically wipe out all the Thaksinistas, so that the Democrats can win the election. And, get this, they blame the junta for not being efficient in their destruction of a political movement and of political actors that don't agree with their political agenda.

Thepchai's attitude is a danger to Thai journalism and Thai democracy. His fascist mentality is the real threat to Thailand's democratic development


Kahve said...

That was quite a load of you know what. But remember: not all writers are even supposed to be "neutral". Any newspaper can have either their whole publishing policy or their individual writers leaning to the left or right or who knows what direction...So you see a lot of similar kind of stuff that ignores all the facts in many places. Take for example some tv channels in USA.

So actually: is it even fair to critize these guys? Who says reporterts have to report facts or write columns based on facts?!? We're not talking about actual NEWS reporting here... :)

matty said...

The Nation is having hysterics worried silly that the next election would be a rerun . . with many ex-TRT guys and heaven forbid Samak-who-will-pardon-Thaksin in the coalition!

But I give Fonzi credit for his criticism of Thepchai's column. Thepchai is getting silly faulting the junta for not having taken more extrajudicial measures to "stamp out" the Thaksinistas.

Maybe there is something about your 'deconstructing' crusade against The Nation columnists after all Fonzi!

Fonzi said...


I agree that a column doesn't need to be neutral and I have said this before.

And I don't really care if The Nation is anti-Thaksin.

The problem I have is how The Nation never bases any of its accusations on facts. If The Nation actually investigated Thaksin's crimes, or anybody else's crimes, I would be cheering it on.

As for the blog, I am documenting how The Nation is nothing but a propaganda sheet for the editor's personal political agenda. Why do you have a problem with me pointing this out?

As for the US, I absolutely agree, especially concerning the Iraqi War, which probably influenced my decision to write this blog in the first place.

Do you want to live in a world where governments are overthrown capriciously without any reason, with the full backing of the press?

I certainly don't.

Thaksin may have done many dodgy things, but he was no Hitler or Pol Pot.

So Kahve, who do you want me to do? Allow The Nation to get away with its bullshit?

Trust me, if there was an organization that was dedicated to media criticism in Thailand, I wouldn't be doing this blog.

The Yoon brothers either own, edit or control a large chunk of the Thai media. They use their power, not for the good of society, but rather for their own fame and political agenda.

I wish somebody would stand up to their lies and bullshit.

I know this blog is small and insignificant, but at least their record will be documented in Google for eternity.

Trirat said...

Fonzi, I hope you have a good-paying job and time to keep writing your blog. Even though it may be 'small and insignificant,' someone's got to say what you're saying (in English) and keep doing it.