Anand at the FCC | 19.05.05

From today’s Bangkok Post:

Anand urges media to keep its distance from troubles

Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun called on the international media to ”keep a distance” from reporting the violence in the deep South, saying there is no point paying too much attention to problems that other countries, including England and Russia, are also experiencing.

Mr Anand said every country had a problem with terrorism and separatism so the violence in southern Thailand was nothing unusual.

”Separatism is no big deal, so try to treat it as a criminal activity,” Mr Anand said. Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand last night, Mr Anand said unrest in Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat was a local, not an international issue.

Huh? Surely this sort of talk would’ve been expected from Thaksin the Media Muzzler™, but not you, Mr. Anand the Statesman! This couldn’t be more heartbreaking!

It shouldn’t be. Rather, it is revealing of Thailand’s national obsession with its international image and its wariness of the world media. This mentality has many times led Mr. Thaksin to shoot himself in the foot by exhorting the local media to “think of the country” in its coverage (lest it gets picked up internationally) and giving fodder to the Media Muzzler™ caricature in the process.

Well, now that the urbane, UN-approved, Cambridge-educated gentleman himself went one step further by pitching the see-no-evil approach directly to the international correspondents, will he become more of a tyrant in their eyes and Thaksin less of one? I doubt it. The integrity of the pigeonholes must be preserved at all costs.

And he made his case with nothing less than a tu quoque, another local specialty. Somehow many Thais get enormous pleasure out of pointing back and yelling “Yourself!” even though it is usually irrelevant and sometimes, as in this case, counterproductive. If the purpose is to downplay the Southern unrest (or small-time terrorism, if you ask me), then why bring up Chechnya and Northern Ireland? The former had been a concern for the US and the EU even before the the Moscow theater and Beslan sieges made it notorious worldwide. The latter has constantly been in the international news for, like, ever and is indeed an international issue, involving the UK (not England, UN statesmen please take note), Ireland, and the US. It just doesn’t make sense.

Then again, Khun Anand didn’t make much sense last time around, either.

23:02 ▪ media, politics

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ติ ชม ผสมโรง [2]

Zato 21.05.05

Stunning, simply stunning. I’m speechless really.

Joseph Teski, jr. 12.12.05

Did everyone get this last May?

Bangkok, May 29, 2005

About an Old Tapir

Covering Up Anand’s Senility

The comments of the former Thai Prime Minister, Anand Panyarachun, at a talk at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT) in Bangkok on May 18, which were reported by the Bangkok Post on May 19 and shown on The Nation television channel on May 20, seemed to confirm what many people have been saying for the past 18 months - that the septuagenarian Anand has lost his marbles. He is senile.

Anand, appearing as chairman of the National Reconciliation Council (NRC), which was formed recently to help end the bloodshed in the southern Malay Muslim provinces through peaceful means, made numerous comments that caused some concern about his age and health.

• Anand insisted that the international media should refrain from reporting the violence in the southern Malay Muslim provinces.

As incredible as it seemed, this was the former chairman of Bangkok Post Publishing talking.

Why should the media ignore the violence? What is the media for, anyway?

If the media ignored the violence, what then?

The media’s reporting of the violence has helped to avert an all-out civil war. It has inhibited the police and army and kept them from running amok. Anand is wrong to request press censorship. Without the press, human rights advocates and reformists would disappear left and right.

• Anand’s explanation of his remark was that “the press shouldn’t pay too much attention to the problems of other countries”.

Why not? That is precisely what the press does. What better way to learn about one’s own situation than by studying the problems of others?

• Anand then said that the violence in southern Thailand was “nothing unusual”.

How could anyone say that? Hadn’t Anand noticed all the excitement? Just 18 months ago, the south was, on the surface at least, a relatively peaceful place.

• Anand’s explanation of his remark was that “every country has a problem with terrorism and separatism”.

• Anand followed up this remark by saying that “separatism is no big deal”.

Since when is separatism a mere trifling matter? Hasn’t Anand ever traveled abroad? Civil wars are often more bitter, more violent and deadlier than international conflicts. Even in the southeastern United States, 150 years after the Civil War, feelings remain strong.

• “So,” Anand added, “treat it (separatism) as a criminal activity.”

Anand seemed to be reciting a lesson that he learned from his old mentor, Suchinda Kraprayoon, who led a coup d’etat in 1991, placed the country under martial law, and made Anand prime minister.

• Anand then made another astonishing remark. He said that he did not understand what caused the violence in the southern region.

Anand was appointed chairman of the NRC by the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, at the recommendation of local academics, to resolve differences and end the unrest in the south. Anand must have flunked his Thai history courses. Any child in the region knows what is causing the violence. The exiled Thai Muslim leader, Wan Kadir, pointed out recently that the frustrated desire for independence and the accompanying resentment and unrest in the south have existed for hundreds of years.

• Anand mentioned “smuggling”, “gambling”, “unfair distribution and poor management of natural resources” as possible causes of the unrest.

• Anand complained that the media was blaming “bandits” for the violence.

Anand should read a newspaper. That is not what the media is reporting. Generally, in an insurgency, bandits are not the killers of policemen, headmen, mayors, provincial officials, and soldiers.

• Then Anand asked the press to overlook the failure of past government policies in the region.

Why should the press do that? There is an old saying: He who has not learned from the mistakes of the past is condemned to repeat them.

• Anand explained the remark by saying that “we are starting a new chapter”.

By his comments at the FCCT, Anand indicated that he lives in Orwell’s 1984 - or Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China - where the past was erased and rewritten whenever the ruling inner party considered it politically desirable to do so.

Fortunately, no one at the FCCT asked Anand for his opinions on the Mindanao Moro or Burmese government. If they did, his replies were not mentioned in the media.

The news reports of the talk were straight, without editorial opinions. Anyone reading and watching the news would conclude that Anand had lost touch with reality.

It was time for Anand to go home to his village, Potharam, and become a monk in his father’s temple and study the scriptures.

Newspaper hacks in Anand’s pocket tried to cover for Anand. In an opinion piece, titled “Planting a Seed of Autonomy, not Independence”, in the Bangkok Post on May 21, an American journalist, Richard Hermes, recalled Anand’s talk, which, he said, went on for two hours. Hermes, an accomplished ass-kisser, painted a complimentary picture of Anand, citing all the rosy words and phrases politicians like to use.

However, Hermes mentioned one remark by Anand that news reports did not. According to Hermes, Anand said that he wanted autonomy for the southern provinces and that the problem would be in persuading the Thai government to grant it.

Why didn’t news reports include Anand’s remark about granting autonomy to the region?

That one remark probably prolonged Anand’s public life. But for how long? No doubt, there will be more evenings like the one at the FCCT.

Joseph Teski, jr.


An Old Tapir gets Older

An added note, December 11, 1005: Since then, Anand has taken back his recommendation for regional autonomy.