Saturday, May 31, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

I have for the last couple of week’s tried to restrict my output on the Thai coup to the airwaves in Australia, the U.S., U.K. and Ireland,  This is mainly because I do not want to write a story for the foreign press and find that a sub-editor has added a mischievous couple of paragraphs.

But what has fascinated me more than anything is the propaganda war going on and the political point scoring. The hundreds of speculative articles interest me not.

In the main the western press has taken universally, not surprisingly, an anti-coup line, while the reds, yellows, UDD amnd PDRC, continue to squabble while not realising how much they have in common.

Some anti-coup protesters rant on about human rights in Thailand while of course seemingly little concerned about historic human rights abuses in Thailand – particularly when it includes third country nationals, and the right to a home.

The pro-coup protesters think they have won without realizing that if the army has to achieve its goal they themselves will have to be the subject of some radical military cuts. At the moment people are eyeing just how the impartial the army is going to be. But actually the army has to be ‘partial’ first because it sees its immediate role as getting rid of the ‘Thaksinistas’.

Tense - more tense- and tense-di-sut

Now while the western media are going on about tense situations etc (I believe I have been more tense coming out of Baker Street underground in the London rush hour) most of Thailand remains unaffected apart from the still restricting curfew - (but it seems that is also a tourist attraction as backpackers store their beers by the day and revert to having guest house parties at night)

But in the meantime it is a propaganda war and in the absence of violence most of the foreign film crews have of course packed up and gone home.

Here meanwhile are some high and low points for the military in the propaganda war:

LOW POINT: General Prayuth goes on television stony faced along with senior military officers. Visually this made it look like a traditional South American coup and guns were going to be coming out and shots were going to be fired. Military music on blacked out television did not help. Foreign film crews are on their way.

HIGH POINT : The coup leaders promise to pay the rice farmers what they are owed and order that it be done within 15 days. 

LOW POINT: Andrew McGregor Marshall goes on SBS television in Australia and describes the generals as 'dinosaurs' quite incapable of controlling the internet and the flow of news.

HIGH POINT: The New York Times reports on how internet savvy the coup leaders actually are. Facebook goes down for a while 'by mistake'.

LOW POINT: Pheu Thai MP Chaturong surrenders at the FCCT to troops amid the full glare of the foreign press who go on to demand his release. Some Thais however see this as merely a stunt because the FCCT is about the only place one can hold a press conference nowadays.

HIGH POINT : Lots of pictures of troops with flowers and a widely syndicated picture of a soldier helping an old lady across the road. Facebook also full of selfies of handsome soldiers with pretty girls.

LOW POINT ARMY: The full crossing the road picture shows that the picture appears to have been orchestrated – but soldiers have been ordered to continue helping old ladies across the road.

Possible photo opportunity coming up with a tortoise.

HIGH POINT: Newspapers run stories about Pheu Thai Cabinet Ministers in custody drunk and gambling and fighting over a 4 million baht debt somebody has accrued playing ‘Hi-Lo’. 

This was a classic which, while not backed up with pictures, confirms what many people believe and want to hear about Pheu Thai Cabinet Ministers. Great photo op missed if this did in fact happen. Probably worth sending in a few more bottles of 'Chivas'.

LOW POINT: PDRC boss seen partying in an expensive French restaurant in Thonglor with supporters dressed up in military uniforms suggesting perhaps that nobody is taking seriously the murder charges being brought against him and they have too much money for their own good. 

This is however defused by the Army which announces it is organising reconciliation parties and fairs across the country. And the Nation newspaper leads on a picture with an army rock group jamming in Pathum Thani. No red shirts in attendance though it seems.

LOW POINT: The Thai Embassy in London writes to the School of Oriental and African Studies asking them to abandon plans to have a meeting to discuss the Thai coup. The Thai Ambassador is recalled from London.

HIGH POINT: The Thai military reels in a number of out of control senior police officers, many of whom are notorious for their shakedowns.

LOW POINT: International financial pundits and magazines forecast Thai financial crash.

HIGH POINT: Stock Exchange of Thailand gains points. Financial pundits say no depression.

LOW POINT: Professor Duncan McCargo slams military coup in New York Times.

HIGH POINT: Professor W Scott Thompson lauds military coup in Los Angeles Times

Twitter Pics - Only Thailand could produce a protester
dressed up as a French maid! 
All in all on the international level the anti-coup faction is winning hands down. Pictures published daily of protesters gagging their mouths and demanding the military get out certainly give the impression of a widespread anti-coup movement. This is only partially offset by the appalling English they use.

But within Thailand it is a very close run propaganda war. And correspondents at the moment are hard pressed to find some serious physical abuses by the military - even if they have taken away the right to free speech.

FOOTNOTE: Sky Television anxious to get a local British slant to the coup called up the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and British Ambassador Mark Kent, to conduct a local interview. The Ambassador duly sensibly obliged and duly gave a short interview advising British tourists where to go and not to go and tactfully laid down H.M. government's line. The FCO duly came back to Sky to tell them that they could not interview the Ambassador.  By this time of course Mark Kent's gems had gone to air. Things must be tough at the FCO if they cannot even trust their own Ambassador.


  1. Of course, the word "coup" is a boo word in our instant communication world so it's hardly surprising that the international media decry the putsch. I don't think the Thai military need worry much. The US is hardly consistent with its track-record, for example, of supporting Saudi Arabia which has never even contemplated holding a general election in its entire history. If "democratic" elections were all that mattered, then Baby Doc would still be ruling in Haiti and Saddam Hussein still riding high in Iraq. Politics are determined by circumstance not absolutes, but not necessarily in the mass media.
    It's interesting that the Thai army in the last few days has seized so many large arms caches hidden in the country. Why hadn't the Thai police already seized them and exactly for what evil purpose had these war weapons been stockpiled in Bangkok and the North East? There is a lot more information to come out yet on the 2014 Thai coup. It may even be shown that it saved "democracy" (a hurrah word) in the long run rather than imposed "dictatorship" (another boo word)!

  2. I'm surprised that someone who has been remanded on murder and treason is free to walk the streets. I'm guessing Thailand is the only country in the world that lets murders, rapists and people who commit treason walk out of the police station after being accused of such heinous crimes.

    It goes to show you that even with the Army in charge, the rich walk free while the poor actually have to PAY bail to stay out of jail.

    1. How many of those are walking in the US street and you cannot even to identify them?

  3. re: It's interesting that the Thai army in the last few days has seized so many large arms caches hidden in the country.

    Barry or Andrew, I have been hearing the same thing but I have not seen anything on the internet confirming this. Where are you getting your information?

  4. A well researched and thoughtful piece, in my view, Andrew. Your 'Baker Street tube" example illustrates well the way the foreign media are going for soundbites and buzzwords rather than reporting what's really going on on the ground - that's just not sexy enough it seems.

    To them, and indeed to many foreigners in Thailand, the words "coup and dictatorship" conjure up everything that is bad while "democracy" is always used as if it is the best thing since sliced bread.

    As Barry points out that's not always the case and the use of these "boo" and "hurrah" words results in their being used without commentators getting behind the true facts and reporting them

    Marshall of course hates everything Thai while some bloggers go out of their way to dismiss any talk of any real problem in Thailand.

    We need more Andrew Drummond clones. Could you not work on it so that we all get better information. Maybe set up a franchise

  5. The Army has got a grip now, rounding up politicians, policemen and malcontents and apparently seizing stocks of war weapons. But how do you "get rid" of a family that over 20 years have got their tentacles into every aspect of business and the State?
    Military tribunals for corruption?

  6. Today there's a BBC report about people who are anti-coup. No numbers given. Making it look serious and widespread is misleading and unprofessional journalism. Sunday's demonstarions in Bangkok wee billed a big event but petered out. That was not reported.

    Andrew, we need clones