Tag Archives: New Mandala

Cooking lessons, guilty; coup, no problem

"I won't leave! I won't leave! I won't..." "LEAVE!"

Among all the responses to the judicial sacking of the prime minister of Thailand, Samak Sundaravej, this week, the New Mandala blog summed it up:

Hosting a TV cooking show = Guilty!

Staging a coup and tearing up a constitution = No problem!

As the blog post suggests, arguments about the technicalities of whether or not Samak was employed to be a television chef during his time in office, thus violating the 2007 constitution, miss the point. Although that may have been the matter upon which the court was asked to decide, this is not what the rest of us should dwell upon.

Let it not be forgotten that in September 2006 when the generals took power in Thailand, the upper courts did as they have always done at these times: nothing. The junta quietly chucked out the constitution and its court while farcically purporting to uphold judicial independence.

In May the following year, the coup was tacitly endorsed in a verdict of the court’s successor, a military-appointed tribunal, on the simpleminded premise that as every other military takeover was legitimized through the courts, then why not this one too.

It did not have to be that way. Continue reading

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Regime of images

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“Several times over the past 15 months Thaksin has vowed that he has no future in politics. It is hard to take his undertakings seriously. As my colleague at the ANU, Peter Jackson, wrote a few years ago, Thai public life operates according to a ‘regime of images‘ whereby there is no necessary correspondence between public stances and private manoeuvres. What counts in public is that the right thing is said at the right time. As usual, Thaksin is working the public imagery cleverly. He can afford to bide his time and present himself as a loyal servant returning to his beloved homeland. Of course, when the time comes for Thaksin to take on a more formal political role there will be those that protest about his dishonesty given his previous promises of retirement. But their charges will have little traction in the court of public opinion. That’s how the ‘regime of images’ works.”

– Andrew Walker, The return of the king, New Mandala

Thailand’s real enemy is insincerity

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The Constitutional Tribunal pulls democracy out of the fire… or drops it in? (Source: Matichon, 30 May 2007)

Beware of news editors who write about “stakeholders.” The word may be popular among the staff of international development agencies, producing clouded reports about projects that they have never seen, but it is usually avoided by journalists, who are expected to be more straightforward.

The fact that “stakeholders” appeared no less than four times in a single Bangkok Post feature last week (Now it is time to move on) should set alarm bells ringing about the condition of journalism in Thailand. The unidentified writer praised the special tribunal that had dissolved the overthrown Thai Rak Thai party and advised everyone that its verdict should be universally accepted, serve as a lesson for unscrupulous politicians that they must play by the rules, and that all stakeholders should just cooperate and move on.

The same person could have written the editorial in the country’s second English daily, The Nation. Although the stakeholders were gone, in a few hundred words the author managed to cram in reconciliation, good governance, public accountability, and, in a final mind-numbing paragraph, political ideology, socio-economic status, effective citizenship, genuine democracy based on the rule of law, and “a conducive environment for sustainable economic and social development.”

Such writing is offensive because it denies readers the opportunity to think and react. It has the opposite effect of real journalism, anaesthetizing rather than awakening society. “The great enemy of clear language,” George Orwell said in his seminal essay on politics and English usage, “is insincerity.” Insincere prose is unpleasant to read because while the truth may not be obvious, the struggle to obscure it with nonsense is all too apparent.

Continue reading