Journalism: Why is a case with the International Criminal Court so frightening to Bangkok Post?

Abhisit Vejjiva, PM of Thailand

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Blog Note: Some journalist at Thai Intel are former Bangkok Post journalist-and thus Thai Intel has an inside look into the Bangkok Post-as to why the Bangkok Post is freaked out in fear of the Red Shirts case at the International Criminal Court-so much as to call the case a “Farce” even when the international court is vetting if to accept the case or not.

It all started quite innocently for Thai Intel’s journalist at the Bangkok Post-being told that it was a Thai media institution. But during Thai Intel’s involvement with the Bangkok Post-gradually from seeing it as an institution, eventually Thai Intel was convinced it was nothing more than the voice of the royalist elite military rulers of Thailand.

The first shock to Thai Intel back then, came in a whisper by the Bangkok Post political editor that the Bangkok Post editor met with the Democrat Party and “Warned” the then Democrat party Prime Minister, Chuan, not to push for a definition of the word “Farmers” because it would lose in a corruption case.

Clearly, the question is-was that a just position?

The second shock back then, came when in the editorial department to vet stories, the Editor of the Bangkok Post said an angle was right but it will hurt the Democrat Party and benefit a foreign firm that was doing business in Thailand-and thus the angle the Bangkok Post was to take was that of the Democrat Party.

Clearly, the question is-was that a just position?

The third shock back then, came when a story that was highly critical of the “Established” Thais in their use of their secretive and inner circle of net-working to get things done, was going against an emerging Thai tycoon-was not permitted to be printed-as the business desk quoted to Thai Intel, “Most of our readers are the old generation Thais that plays golf and spends time reading us at club-houses,” adding, “That tycoon was nobody just a few years ago, forget him.”

Clearly, the question is-was that a just position?

The fourth shock back then, was that Thai Intel had a breaking story that would sky-rocket a stock market listed company shares and it was Thursday after the stock market closed. So Thai Intel wrote the story on that day, thinking it would be published on Friday edition of the Bangkok Post. Thai Intel was wrong, the story ran on the following Monday morning, guess what for?

Clearly, the question is-was that a just position?

On the first day at the Bangkok Post, Thai Intel was skeptical about working there-as most of Thai Intel’s friend and relatives told Thai Intel that in Thailand, journalist are just “Shitty People.”

Thai Intel relay the quote to the Bangkok Post that Thai Intel was not certain about going to work for the Bangkok Post, even with the Bangkok Post just having moved into a brand new modern building.

The Editor of the Bangkok Post said, in response, quote,

“You know, a long time ago a bunch of photo journalist went covering a story about a major accident and after, they grouped into a big meeting to discuss what happened. And then the journalists noticed a person was standing among them with a camera. That person turned out to be the King of Thailand, who also had a camera. So you see, being a journalist in Thailand is a very highly honorable profession, that even the King appreciates and want to be a part off.”

Well, Thai Intel was impressed-and with those words about the Thai King, joined the Bangkok Post.

But since then, Thai Intel is often reminded by readers, that long ago, on October 6th, when a dictator, much hated because he killed many protesters and was kicked out of Thailand, Thanom, returned to Thailand and sparked at outraged at the Thammasart University-it was the Bangkok Post that ran a picture of a play by Thammasart students-with the words that the play depicted the Thai Royalty negatively.

In the end, it was that Bangkok Post picture of the play, that sparked a massacre of students at Thammasart-and put back in place the royalist elite military rule of Thailand.

Many, both Thais and foreigners continues to be surprised by the Bangkok Post. “Yes” there are a few journalist at the Bangkok Post who are dedicated to democracy, freedom and justice-but to Thai Intel-we are never surprised by the Bangkok Post’s reporting anymore.

Take it from Thai Intel, that when push comes to shove-and the bottom line is waiting to be decided, the Bangkok Post, will always chose to stand with the royalist elite military rulers of Thailand-and be against democracy, freedom and justice.

The following is from New Mandala:

November 10th, 2010

by David Streckfuss, Guest Contributor

The Bangkok Post has distinguished itself from its English-language competitor for publishing a diversity of political views in its editorial pages. The paper’s daily editorials are often well conceived and fairly argued.

Such is not the case of its 1 November 2010  editorial which employs muddied reasoning, stoops to personal attacks, and places unwarranted faith in the justice system which has historically failed to counter impunity.

The editorial suggests that the submission of charges by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) against the Abhisit Vejjajiva government with the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “a shocking misuse of the justice system” and that “right-thinking people” should “denounce this blot on justice.”

But is this attempt by the UDD to bring to justice the perpetrators of the April-May violence of this year as outrageous as the Bangkok Post would suggest? Is it possible for “right-thinking” people to suspect that nothing will come of the toothless, semi-independent truth and reconciliation commission set up by the government? Are there solid, historical reasons to believe that the country’s judicial system will fail to address impunity?

The editorial argues that the ICC’s “major flaw” is that it requires the court to “seriously” consider “even this wild allegation” made “by an uninvolved, third party who was on the other side of the world when the UDD rallies took place.”

Four components of this argument deserve attention.

First, it misunderstands the mission of the ICC. The editorial argues that the ICC was created to bring to justice “the most reprehensible dictators.” Actually, just regular ol’ dictators fit the ticket. The ICC states it was “established to help end impunity for the perpetrators of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community.” It is up to the ICC to see whether government actions in April-May of this year constitute “most serious crimes.”

The Thai government so far has seemed to show that the 91 deaths early this year were not “the most serious crimes.” Almost a half a year later, the government has yet to make public details from the autopsies of those killed. The incidents of April-May and the continued use of repressive media laws should be of “concern to the international community.”

Second, the editorial, incredibly enough, cites the examples of countries like the United States, Iran, the Philippines and China as having opposed the ICC’s broad mandate. No wonder. The United States continues to defy the international community’s concern about “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo Bay; Iran, the Philippines, and China are all securely in the bottom 15 per cent of nations in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

Third, the editorial casts aspersions against the “tasteless” Robert Amsterdam, former prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra’s lawyer and UDD legal advisor, for his “wild” and “odious effort” to harm “the country’s name and reputation.”

The presence of personal invective often signals a lack of substance and clear thinking. The charges submitted to the ICC are not a mere artifice of a political game manipulated by Thaksin and Amsterdam. The views in the UDD document reflect the suspicions and concerns of a broad swath of Thai society.

Fourth, the editorial shows dismay that a “sitting prime minister” could be accused by an “uninvolved third party” at the ICC. Actually, the editorial is quite wrong—distance is important. The problem is not that an uninvolved third party is lodging the charge, but that this entire matter should be handled by a neutral body. That is why the UDD demanded that the sitting prime minister step down so that a fair inquiry could be made. Given the Thai court’s recent record, is it completely unreasonable to wonder whether the courts can play the role of an “uninvolved third party”?

Historically speaking, UDD supporters have good reason to fear that the government’s present efforts will result in a whitewash of the April-May events. Only the massacre of May 1992 have ever been seriously investigated. The resultant 2000 report was pointless; no court has ever revoked the self-administered amnesty taken by perpetrators.

No Thai security personnel or leaders have ever been tried for the deaths of protesters in 1973, 1976, or 1992. For that matter, no official has been tried for the extrajudicial killings of as many as 3,000 persons in Thaksin’s War on Drugs.

When security forces were tried for the killing of as many as 80 Tak Bai protesters, the court last year absolved state officials of any responsibility. A Bangkok Post editorial at the time stated that such a ruling was “out of tune with democracy and public expectation. The government or security forces cannot credibly absolve themselves to avoid responsibility.”

With no examples from history, it is difficult to believe that the Thai justice system or reconciliation effort this time will magically result in a challenge to this long history of entrenched impunity.

Overall, the editorial displays utter incredulity that Thailand could be compared to a country like the Sudan, and calls the UDD efforts with the ICC a “farce.”

But it could also be argued that a sober, clear-headed view of the situation in Thailand is what is needed. The editorial states that there can be “healthy disagreement over the clashes in April and May.” But can there, when the government is working at full throttle to suppress opposing views?

If the Bangkok Post does not want Thailand to be compared with dictatorships, then it should be fighting more heartily for press freedom. The reality is that Thailand’s position has dropped to its lowest in a decade, ranking 153rd out of 178 nations (and sharing the bottom 15 per cent with the Sudan).

Hasn’t the reputation of the nation been harmed because of actions of the government, rather than by those who try to expose such actions?

Many red-shirt leaders turned themselves in so they could have their day in court to prove their innocence. Why is a case with the ICC so frightening? After all, the innocent have nothing to fear.

Dr. David Streckfuss is a writer residing in Khon Kaen.

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