Monday, August 18, 2008

Thaksin in Exile, WSJ and The Nation's Lies and Distortions

Thaksin's PR machine in full swing again By The Nation

By The Nation

The merits of the cases against the Shinawatras are being ignored in favour of the old familiar spin

Thaksin Shinawatra's best chance is to make all that is happening to him look like d้jเ vu all over again. And we can see it happening already, in some foreign media editorials, in political blogs, through his legal representatives and through his own emotional statements. Here, according to the mammoth public-relations efforts joined knowingly or unknowingly by journalists abroad with a stereotypical concept of "democracy", is a politically persecuted man driven out of his home country simply because he was too popular.

The editors at The Nation are utterly shameless.

Take note of the title to this editorial. If a foreign publication doesn't spout The Nation's moronic anti-Thaksin propaganda verbatim, then they are paid lackeys of Thaksin.

Also, they are quickly accused of not understanding Thailand and of being ignorant of democracy.

The Nation's editors are the last people to lecture anybody about journalistic integrity or their knowledge of democracy.

The Nation attacks the foreign media and the blogosphere about not getting Thaksin, but only saves specific vitriol for the Wall Street Journal, a publication that the publisher of The Nation recently stated he wanted to emulate.

Thaksin Flees Thailand, The Wall Street journal:

Thaksin Shinawatra jumped bail this week and sought political asylum in Britain -- a final victory for the coup leaders who ousted him from power in Bangkok in 2006. The former Prime Minister said he didn't trust his chances for a fair trial; the government denied the charge. And therein lies the problem

December's parliamentary elections reinstated popular democracy in Thailand, and Mr. Thaksin's successor party is back in power. But it did little to embed the kinds of strong checks and balances Thai democracy needs. The current constitution -- installed by the military government last year -- gives extraordinary powers to small committees, composed mainly of judges, including the right to appoint almost half the Senate and to populate important agencies like the Counter Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court.

So when prosecutors started pursuing a string of fraud and corruption cases against Mr. Thaksin, many Thais wondered if the charges were real or politically motivated. Mr. Thaksin himself muddied the waters by saying in a statement Monday that he wanted a chance to prove his innocence, while at the same time, admitting that he is "not a perfect man."

That aside, Mr. Thaksin made a good point by noting "people who directly and indirectly supported the coup were appointed as members of organizations responsible for taking action against me." The military government set up a commission specifically to investigate the former prime minister.

Mr. Thaksin admittedly didn't do much to strengthen Thailand's democratic institutions during his five-year tenure, which was marked by strongarm police tactics, close ties with business and a culture of fear that curbed media freedom. But he was a popularly elected leader who enjoyed the support of the majority of Thais. That's why his successor party, the People Power Party, did so well in the December polls; it promised a swift return to Mr. Thaksin's policies.

Now with Mr. Thaksin in Britain, the way forward for Thai democracy is unclear. The former military government banned 111 members of Mr. Thaksin's old party, Thai Rak Thai, from running for office for five years. The ruling PPP could be disbanded if the courts decide to pursue allegations of voter fraud, and find it. The PPP itself may split into factions in the wake of Mr. Thaksin's hurried departure. If that happens, elections could be called next year.

That leaves the country's future squarely in the hands of the courts and the King, who, in a televised speech a few months before the coup, had publicly encouraged the courts to play a role in solving the country's political problems. The military is ever present in the background.

This may be a recipe for short-term stability, given how Mr. Thaksin tended to dominate the Thai polity. But it in no way deepens Thailand's democracy, or makes its leaders more accountable to the people they serve. In the long run, that isn't positive, with or without Mr. Thaksin.

There is nothing in the WSJ that sings the praises of Thaksin.

It seems unless a foreign publication is Soponian in criticism of Thaksin or accept The Nation's half-baked notions of judicio-martial elite democracy, then they are part of Thaksin's PR team.

The Nation's editorial concludes:

Instead of seeing the current judicial campaign as an effort to put things right, the Wall Street Journal cast a negative light on the process. To sum up its view of the process, the paper considers it nothing that will strengthen Thai democracy or make its leaders more accountable to the people. It was a daring conclusion that ignores a tiny little thing: how can Thailand's democracy be deepened and its leaders made more accountable if we are a country that is incapable of even addressing those alleged crimes?

It's the question that Thaksin and his public-relations men want to shield from the rest of the world. The root cause why Thais had to take to the streets, giving the military ammunition to oust Thaksin in a coup, or why it took a coup-installed committee to investigate what should have been simple criminal or political crimes gave way to a superficial analysis: he was too popular to stay.

In the long run, it could be as the Wall Street Journal pessimistically predicted, that Thailand has no positive future with or without Thaksin. However, while the paper seems content with Thaksin's "imperfections", the term he used in his parting-shot statement, a lot of Thais may be saying the "imperfect" way of dealing with his alleged crimes is the best chance this country has.

Of course, The Nation never contributed to ending Thaksin's career legitimately by doing any investigative reporing of Thaksin's crimes.

The fact that The Nation believes that the international media should bow down to its wisdom regarding Thaksin and Thailand's recent political developments without providing one fact to back up anything it says--especially regarding Thaksin's corruption-- tells you what you need to know about The Nation's abysmal journalistic standards and capacity for making intelligent and cogent arguments in support of its "Get Thaksin" agenda.

But when you really get down to the nitty gritty, it seems what The Nation fears is that Thailand's judicial system has been exposed to the world for being corrupted by the military and the elite for political purposes. Which is true. But The Nation would like to spin to be that Thaksin was evil and the politicization of the judiciary is necessary and justified because Thaksin is the greater evil.

By the way, I am fascinated how The Nation hasn't made one critical peep about its beloved judiciary after the court allowed Thaksin and his family out on bail when they were high risk.

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