Thursday, October 16, 2008

Suthichai Yoon versus Suthichai Yoon

This week's column:

Two questions stand out that must be answered if we are to be able to get to the bottom of the "Black October" incident that killed two and injured more than 400 protestors last week. Who gave police the order to fire tear-gas canisters into the protestors in front of Parliament on the morning of October 7

Did the police know that the Chinese-made tear gas canisters were at least15 years old and contained RDX explosives that could mortally wound a victim if hit directly at close range?

Khunying Dr Pornthip Rojanasunand, a member of the police-appointed fact-finding committee, provided some revealing clues when she spoke on the Nation Channel on Monday evening.

She said: "The meeting of senior officials including the Army chief [Gen Anupong Paochinda] and police director [Police Maj Patcharawat Vongsuwan] had concluded that police would not move in to disperse the crowd. But somehow, political influence held sway and orders were later given out to police in the frontline to clear the way in front of Parliament House…"

Short of naming names, she said: "Two deputy premiers were responsible for giving that order. One of them has quit. The other is still in the Cabinet."

If that isn't a clear enough indictment on the men behind the scenes, then we will never hear a more specific statement on who should be held responsible for the bloodshed.

Will Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat ever feel responsible enough to launch a transparent probe into the political manipulation behind the tragedy? Not very likely - since he won't be able to avoid being implicated.

Asked whether the premier would be considered a party to the conspiracy, Khunying Pornthip responded: "Quite so … after all, he was the one who insisted on delivering his policy speech in the Parliament House, no matter what."

The blame game, of course, has been in full play. A close aide to Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, who quit as deputy premier in charge of security affairs soon after the chaos broke out, gave a different version of the story to protect his boss. He said he had urged the specially convened Cabinet meeting, chaired by the premier, to avoid any confrontation by proposing several alternative sites where the premier could deliver the policy speech.

The Cabinet was split. But, Chavalit's aides claimed, when a phone call was made to House Speaker Chai Chidchob, the latter was adamant that the parliamentary session would have to be held at the besieged Parliament House - and nowhere else. That command, according to this version of the story, overrode the Cabinet's deliberations. The excuse was that since it was a parliamentary event, the House Speaker, and not the prime minister, should have the final say

Last week's column:

But Deputy Premier Gen Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, leading the soft-approach faction in the Cabinet urged the prime minister to avoid a confrontation with the protestors, which would make a bad situation much worse - and render the whole scenario totally unpredictable and even out of control.

Chavalit proposed holding the parliamentary meeting in another location in the capital while negotiating with the protestors to end their siege peacefully.

Incredibly enough, instead of following his own pronouncement that he would put harmony above all other considerations, Somchai put the issue up for a vote in the Cabinet. Not surprisingly, the hard-line Cabinet members won the day - and Chavalit lost.

A few hours later, a squad of apparently ill-trained policemen, under clear instruction to disperse the crowd at all costs and armed with tear-gas canisters, started firing into, instead of over, the heads of the protestors.

The ensuing melee that saw more than 400 protestors injured, several of them with mutilated legs, marked the beginning of the end of Somchai's tenure that began only two weeks earlier.

Gen Chavalit quit in disgust, citing the police's use of force as the main reason. The real reason, however, was that Chavalit felt betrayed by Somchai and, perhaps, London-based Thaksin Shinawatra.

Chavalit's role as the government's mediator with the People's Alliance for Democracy was clearly sabotaged by the police's move to take into custody two of PAD's core leaders - Chaiwat Sinsuwong last Friday and Maj Gen Chamlong Srimuang on Monday. Tuesday morning's tear-gassing of the protestors in front of Parliament House was the last straw.

But wasn't Chavalit supposed to be former premier Thaksin's point-man - and possibly the man to head Thaksin's new party in case the People Power Party is disbanded? That, indeed, was the original plan. One of Chavalit's close aides admitted that Chavalit had in fact been asked by Thaksin to join Somchai's Cabinet to shore up the premier, Thaksin's brother-in-law, who is considered a novice in politics.

Once on board, Chavalit wasted no time in reaching out to the PAD's leadership. Thaksin, of course, wanted Chavalit to build a link to his worst political enemies - but only as a gesture with a political objective, not to the extent that Chavalit tried to portray to the public.

Suthichai Yoon really has some big balls to expose his own incompetent reporting this way.

He is basically admitting that he got spun a bunch of lies by General Chavalit's aide.

Though General Chavalit already admitted that he was responsible for giving the order and quit before Yoon's column went to print.

The great Suthichai Yoon, publishing spin before confirming the propaganda from other sources.

Of course, Yoon doesn't apologize to anybody for getting the story totally wrong.

Another thing that really irritates me about The Nation's crap journalistic standards: they never ever ever ever do any type of independent investigating on their own. They just sit on their arses and wait for some government body to tell them what to print. If the government body coalesces with their belief system, they praise it. If it doesn't mesh with their beliefs, they denounce it as puppet body made up of Thaksinistas and pro-government stooges.

Seriously, how difficult is it to send a reporter down to where the crackdown took place, look for some empty shell canisters and determine their origin, get some sample clothing from the victims and pay for a forensic report, do interviews with the police, ask questions of eye witnesses and do everything a real reporter is supposed to do in a situation like this?

It wouldn't really be that difficult.

But, then, the material facts might get in the way of The Nation's lies and propaganda.

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