Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
A line appears to have been drawn under the spat between the Bangkok Post and the Columbia Journalism Review and the Bangkok Post over an article by former reporter Justin Heifetz.

The Bangkok Post reacted angrily to an article by Heifetz who fled the newspaper after facing the might of the Thai Admiralty after it appears he took the mickey out of the Navy’s opening of a submarine base, er without submarines to establish ‘territorial integrity’, in a Bangkok Post article.

He took quotes he said already published in the Bangkok Post by the newspaper’s female military correspondent  Wassana Nanuam.  She then, he claimed, denied them.  The Bangkok Post , claimed Heifetz did not stand by their reporter (him). 

This of course followed the famous case of Erika Fry who also told a dismal tale to the Columbia Journalism Review about how the Bangkok Post ratted on her over her exposé of the Director of Thailand’s National Innovation Agency for plagiarizing the work of Dr. Wyn Ellis to obtain a Master’s Degree.  The Post also ratted on Wyn Ellis, the source for the story.

The Bangkok Post also apologized for a story I wrote and did a deal with the plaintiff before I went on to win the criminal libel brought case against me and the Bangkok Post (but the Post was dropped as a defendant).

The same editor, a now seemingly furious Pichai Chuensuksawadi, wrote a furious story in the Post published below in relation to the Heifetz piece.

Statement by the Bangkok Post
On April 15, 2015, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published an article titled "Pork, bullets and the dismal state of Thai journalism" by Justin Heifetz. 
This story is riddled with flaws and is simply malicious innuendo. We have taken the time to provide the facts on many paragraphs of this so-called story. 
It is quite clear that there is no factual basis to many of the claims made by the writer and that he is simply taking the opportunity to malign the Bangkok Post while using the CJR as his hapless soapbox. 
To make an analogy - if a cadet reporter joined the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, left after six months on the job without any proper notice, and then submitted a libelous article about his trials and tribulations, would the CJR be so quick to publish without verifying any of the allegations made in the article? 
What amazes us is that the editors of the CJR did not make any effort to contact us to verify this story. To obtain comment, they instead relied solely on the writer, who was going to write a story against this newspaper.
If this is the standard to which the CJR adheres, then I believe the CJR's Board of Overseers needs to be made aware of the dismal state of how the CJR operates. 
The CJR should retract this story and issue an official apology to the Bangkok Post, Mr. Heifetz’s former colleagues at the newspaper and indeed, to the Thai media, many of whom do in fact take considerable risk in the performance of their professional duties. 
Failing that the CJR should publish our response unedited and not as suggested by the CJR: "We'd like to get to the bottom of this, and if a correction or clarification is needed, we're glad to get Justin to write one. Please let me know about the fact issues in writing as soon as you can."

Pichai Chuensuksawadi
Editor, The Bangkok Post

In fact it was up to Heifetz to put the allegations to the Bangkok Post and he has clearly stated that he sent the Bangkok Post a full copy of the article for comment a week before publication and got a reply which the CJR published. The CJR responded by making corrections of fact on points almost all of which had nothing to do with main thrust of Heifetz’s story.  This is reprinted below. The Editor and Publisher of the Colombia Journalism Review is Elizabeth Spayd, formerly Managing Editor of the Washington Post.

Columbia Journalism Review

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Bangkok Post has issued a sharp critique of this story, disputing many of its assertions. As a result, CJR conducted a broad review of Justin Heifetz’s piece, a process that has involved conversations with more than a dozen journalists and legal experts in Thailand and elsewhere, as well as with Heifetz. 
We have determined that there are several errors of fact that require correction. In the opening anecdote, about testing bulletproof vests on a pig carcass, Heifetz wrote: “I didn’t want to shoot a slaughtered animal, but I had no choice.” Heifetz now says that shooting the pig was a decision he made, and that his editor did not force him. 
Heifetz wrote that the Bangkok Post is the “largest circulating English-language daily in Southeast Asia.” This is incorrect. Heifetz stated that “Thai law prohibits local media outlets from hiring non-national reporters.” 
There is no law categorically prohibiting foreigners from being hired as reporters (as opposed to editors), though in practice it’s rarely done. Additionally, Heifetz’s statement that “all defamation charges in Thailand are criminal” is incorrect. 
Thai law contains penalties for civil as well as criminal defamation, and any charge of defamation can be brought under either civil or criminal law, at the plaintiff’s option. In some cases, the facts are harder to judge. 
Heifetz wrote that he “clashed” with another Bangkok Post reporter, Wassana Nanuam. Heifetz now says that he and Wassana “never spoke nor saw each other.” His use of the word “clashed,” while misleading, reflects his view that there was tension between the two resulting from an incident in the newsroom. 
This story was written in the first person, and represents Heifetz’s personal opinion and experience while he was an employee of the Bangkok Post. The events he describes are open to multiple interpretations, and it is not surprising that they have provoked strenuous disagreement. 
Before publication, Heifetz contacted the managing editor of the Bangkok Post, Chiratas Nivatpumin, seeking his response to many of the points that the Post has since disputed. Chiratas chose not to answer the specific claims in Heifetz’ piece, instead responding in an email that “the Post has a different recollection and perspective of the events in question,” which CJR included in the piece. 
Heifetz also suggested that Chiratas forward his request for comment to reporter Wassana Nanuam, for whom Heifetz said he lacked contact information. It is unclear whether that was ever done. In an attempt to emphasize that this piece represents Heifetz’s opinion, we have also changed the headline. 
While CJR’s review did surface factual errors, none of them challenged the general thrust of Heifetz’s narrative or perspective on his time at the Bangkok Post.
So what was that all about?  Although the CJR has said it has done extensive fact checking in Thailand I can assure them that while there are civil libel laws the practice in general is to bring criminal libel charges (and now Computer Crime Libel charges) before bringing civil charges.
And Pichai’s put down is priceless: ‘If a cadet reporter joined the Wall Street Journal or The New York Times, left after six months on the job without any proper notice, and then submitted a libelous article about his trials and tribulations, would the CJR be so quick to publish without verifying any of the allegations made in the article?’.

What? This supposed ‘cadet’ reporter was the main English language writer on the investigations section of the Bangkok Post’s. Why is the paper employing ‘cadets’ ( an Australian term I believe)? And why should a cadet not have integrity?

A closer answer to this whole row may lie in a piece in the Asia Sentinel which profiles the high rolling Wassana Nanuam whose Facebook features score of photos of Thailand’s  military strongman Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

Wassana in Hawaii - checking out old subs for the Thai Navy?

Personally if any journalist wanted to take the mickey out of the Thai Navy – then there’s their aircraft carrier down at Sattahip naval base in eastern Thailand with no aircraft.

Aircraft carrier is Thai only tourist attraction

But has not the editor of the Bangkok Post has forgotten the first rule. HE is responsible for everything which goes into the newspaper. Had the story been so damaging to the Thai Navy it is the Editor’s decision to include or not include.  It’s the Bangkok Post which should be apologizing to the Admiral, which it may well have done in private.

But Thailand does not really work like this – as Heifezt wrote: “The paper’s then-deputy editor forced me to apologize to the rear admiral by phone; when I asked her why, she said she didn’t have the time to read my article, and that it must be done. When I called the rear admiral with my section editor, the admiral said that I could never understand what I had done wrong, because I was a foreigner.”

 I love it when editors go at each other. It reminds me of the old spats between Andrew Neil of the Sunday Times and Donald Trelford at the Observer many moons ago. Both of whom seemed, I recall, to like Asian 'totty'. 


  1. The only thing worth reading in the post is Voranai and the NYT articles they publish. It's a mystery how they can still publish such a large newspaper when I've hardly ever seen people reading it...they must have a very good ad sales team!

  2. BP can pontificate all it likes about the ‘tenets of journalism’ but if it cared one iota, BP would restore to its archive Erika Fry’s article on the notorious Supachai / National Innovation Agency plagiarism scandal. At the time, the article was withdrawn by BP under threat of litigation, but has since been totally vindicated as factually correct Kh Pichai should now take this opportunity to set aside petty personal differences and republish this excellent example of BP investigative journalism. It’s likely there will soon be an interesting sequel to this story.

  3. "When I called the rear admiral with my section editor, the admiral said that I could never understand what I had done wrong, because I was a foreigner.”

    What the admiral means is, as a foreigner, this man was clueless to the fact a patriarchal, feudal and patronage ridden society like Thailand, demands that a person of perceived lower class, grovel and lick the boots of a perceived higher class person like himself. This is even more important if this higher class person wears a uniform with a lot of shiny and sparkly things on it.

    No piss taking about the navy having an aircraft carrier but no planes is allowed. Nor are you allowed to mention the submarine base with no subs as it might make the admiral lose face. No person of a perceived higher class can ever be wrong, ever! A person of lower class is always the culprit (scape-goat) and will readily confess so nobody wearing a uniform loses faces or gets embarrassed.

    Brownosing is endemic and should be a subject taught in Universities Thailand wide. The phu yai must always be right and the phu noi must accept he is wrong even if right, if a phu yai says so. Never mention the toy golf ball detectors they paid millions for thinking they were bomb detectors, the air ship that never gets off the ground but costs millions in maintenance fees and heaven forbid don't mention the submarines they don't have to dock at the imaginary base.

    The Thai general ranks are full of very short and irrelevant men who become relevant when they wear those uniforms with the sparkly things on them. There are certainly some serious small dick issues involved here but that is another story. In fact SDS (small dick syndrome) is behind many of the problems afflicting the Thai male.

    Let's face it, they can't even figure out Noyes and Goudie are shameless, cheap conmen, how they are taking the piss out of the court system making them look inept, corrupt and so third world. We Farangs just don't get Thainess.

    The Weapon Ph,D

    (pretty huge dick)

  4. "Let's face it, they can't even figure out Noyes and Goudie are shameless, cheap conmen,"

    It's a 2 word answer:

    Money talks!

    P.S. not a bad song for 1990