Sunday, December 2, 2007

Deconstructing Sopon Onkgara: Rumor and Innunendo Stand in Way of Good Journalism, Integrity

Vendettas stand in way of harmony, reconciliation

Sopon Onkgara

The Nation

Amidst the intense campaigning, money-dumping and guileful vote-buying tricks by key political parties, which have exceeded past efforts in terms of creativity and imagination, there was the worrisome revelation that an "enemies list" has been prepared by chief cronies and cut-throats loyal to Thaksin Shinawata.

Of course, The Nation hasn't documented any of these "money-dumping and guileful vote-buying tricks" with any investigative reporting of its own. It shouldn't be difficult, considering their friend and chief patron, General Sonthi, is in charge overseeing the election. But The Nation hasn't interviewed Sonthi about the corruption of election, has it? And, if the campaigning is rife with corruption and vote-buying as The Nation alleges but doesn't report on, why hasn't Sonthi put a stop to it?

The list, according to Suriyasai Katasila, who claims to be number 50 on the list, contains a wide range of Thaksin's enemies and critics, such as members of the military junta, the Assets Examination Committee (AEC), critics, activists, journalists and members of NGOs, among others.

Suriyasai has no credibility. Since he has been the junta's chief unofficial spokesperson and defender since the coup, it is surprising he is listed as only number 50.

AEC member Kaewsan Atibodhi tops the list for his outspoken role on the committee and his vigorous pursuit of hidden assets connected with Thaksin and his family.

Hidden assets? The AEC has already confiscated a good chunk of Thaksin's assets already. And most of those assets have been totally unconnected to any of the crimes Thaksin has been charged with so far.

Thaksin's cronies and henchmen have been quiet about the list. At least they did not deny its existence. If it does exist, it is surely not for public viewing and kept only for members of Thaksin's inner circle.

Sopon logic at work: The existence of the list has been kept secret, at least its existence hasn't been denied. Sopon probably didn't call anybody to ask if the list exists, so, either way the list may or may not exist, but if it does exist, it is only kept for Thaksin's inner circle, but Sopon will write a column about this list, whether it exists or not, because Sopon really isn't a journalist, but a gossip columnist.

During his reign, Thaksin was consumed with the arrogance of power and became abusive, with his critics bearing the brunt of his displeasure. Thaksin's top cronies were the ones who ensured that those who opposed his boss did not enjoy their days in peace and serenity.

Uh, I guess those protest that went on for months and months criticizing Thaksin didn't count. I guess those tens of thousands of people are all Thaksin's enemies list.

Journalists, NGOs and labour activists were stalked and harassed by senior officials at the Anti-Money Laundering office, who also abused their power. On days when street rallies and public demonstrations against Thaksin occurred on almost a daily basis, his henchmen were working overtime to counter with sinister acts.

What sinister acts? He allowed the demonstrations to go on and on for months.

It was not exactly a reign of terror. There were not many dead bodies or disappearances, as in Argentina, except for the period of Thaksin's dirty war against so-called drug dealings, with more than 2,500 extrajudicial killings, 1,400 of which were revealed by an investigative committee to have been unrelated to narcotics.

None of which were connected to Thaksin, but the military and police who ordered the killings or pulled the triggers, those in power now, are still on the loose. But in Sopon's deluded world, all roads lead to Thaksin and nobody is responsible for their own actions.

If Thaksin's political cronies win the general election on December 23, those on the enemies list could find themselves the victims of grudges being settled via harassment lawsuits and other extrajudicial means.

Soponism: If one hypothetical happens, then another hypothetical will occur.

It is not very significant to learn who might be on the list. Those against Thaksin could be dealt with gradually, with the degree and method of reprisal varying - physical, psychological or via other means, none of them pleasant.

Soponism: If I am on that list, then I might be shitting myself in the future.

Those who know Thaksin well enough realise that he is not a man who forgets his enemies easily. Everybody knows that forgiveness is not in Thaksin's lexicon. In previous cases, his opponents have suffered various plights.

Lawyer Somchai Neelaphaijit disappeared without a trace despite a brief period of active investigation. It was an open secret who did it and for what reason.

Another high-profile victim was a customs-clearance broker who sang about tax-dodging tricks employed by one of Thaksin's subsidiary companies. The broker was marked for execution by a key member of his innermost circle. Some of the hit men, who were junior policemen, were transferred to obscure posts.

Soponism: Make shit up that Thaksin did that has never been documented by any news report in The Nation or any court of law.

Whether or not the list exists, Thaksin's opponents will not be allowed to live happily ever after once his cronies win the election and form a new government, as is widely predicated. His cronies, spoiling for vengeance, will certainly see to that because they have personal scores to settle as well.

Soponism: Even though I have no evidence to back up anything I say, make wild predictions that the worse may or not may not occur based on a list that may or may not exist.

Several of Thaksin's cronies are ex-Communist guerrillas who have engaged in real field combat with government forces. They were formerly university students who fled to take up arms in the jungles fighting a civilian dictatorial regime, in which, ironically, Samak Sundaravej served as interior minister. Now these two factions are working hand in glove to fight for Thaksin's return.

Soponism: Blame the commies, or blame the righties, or hey, just blame both--everybody is an agent of Thaksin.

Any hope of political reconciliation among conflicting parties will be tested just a few weeks after the newcomers take over at Government House.

Thus far during the election campaign, Thaksin's cronies and relatives have made it loud and clear that they intend to go after their opponents with extreme vengeance in mind for "all generations still living". The warning sounds very ominous now, with their arrogance likely to intensify following what seems like a sure-fire victory in the polls.

Interesting that Sopon doesn't quote any Thaksinistas to give his column any credibility.

Sopon sees the writing on the wall, and like I have written previously, as the election approaches, The Nation will become increasingly hysterical.

What's more, Thaksin's cronies have become bolder and more combative in their challenges to the military leaders. Nobody is above their vicious attacks, not even Privy Council president General Prem Tinsulanonda, who remains a constant target for verbal pot-shots by Samak, the leader of the People Power Party and a self-confessed Thaksin crony.

What's wrong with challenging the military leaders? That is their right under the 1997, 2007 and Asean constitutions.

If political pundits are correct in their predictions, no matter which side wins the election, the next government will face a stormy period. There are no optimistic viewpoints these days. If Thaksin's cronies do grab power and enjoy carrying out their vendettas, the country could really begin to resemble Argentina - not in terms of its economy, but in an increased number of cases of harassment, incarceration and disappearance.

Somebody should inform Sopon that Argentina is no longer a military dictatorship and hasn't been so for a long time.


Anonymous said...

I hope you realize Fonzi that you are probably the only Thai left in this world who reads Sopon Onkgara and takes him seriously.

Bangkok Pundit said...

I really can't bear to read Sopon anymore, but I'll read your fisking of him anytime.

Corporal: But he still writes a regular op-ed piece. Unless anyone fisks him, how would we know how ridiculous his op-ed pieces are. I agree with you though that almost no one takes him seriously anymore.