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Inside Cover: 24 May 2010

Inside Cover: 24 May 2010

BANGKOK – My street here was barricaded all last week and remains barricaded at one end as I write.

Gunshots and explosions rang out continually for five days. Electricity and water were cut off. We were “locked down” at 6pm, and a night curfew was imposed. Most of our neighbours fled. It was not nice.

But it has passed and we survived. Now, however, another unpleasantry has surfaced.

It is an attempt to malign analysts and journalists, particularly foreign media, by saying they never understood what was going on during last week’s mayhem in Bangkok and thus made a hash of reporting it.

On Friday, Arglit Boonyai, editor of the Bangkok Post’s weekly supplement, Guru, wrote: “The international press is making a complete mess of their reporting of the situation.”

The well-known novelist and artistic director of the Bangkok Opera, Somtow Sucharitkul, issued a critical piece in his popular blog titled “Don’t Blame Dan Rivers”.

Using CNN correspondent Rivers (whom I’ve never met) as typical of the foreign press, Somtow wrote: “A lot of people here are astonished and appalled at the level of irresponsibility and inaccuracy shown by such major news sources as CNN.”

The basis for this perverse view is that foreign journalists, though not openly supportive of the red-shirted protesters, did give credence to their gripe that Thailand is run by a privileged elite that cares little for the welfare of poor folk in the hinterlands.

Naturally, people like Somtow and Arglit, and even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his colleagues, who are members of the Bangkok bourgeoisie, did not like this.

In fact, the international media has been exemplary in its brave and largely unbiased coverage.

Regrettably, the same cannot be said of the domestic press and the government-controlled radio and TV stations.

A columnist in the vernacular newspaper, Thai Rath, wrote: “The Thai media’s coverage of the red shirts’ protest has been very disappointing. To get the truth, the Thai public must rely on foreign newspapers and TV.”

As the Bangkok Post stated on Friday: “[We] should not forgive. The actions of some among the Red Shirts of the past several weeks were unconscionable.”

That is true. Of the mayhem last week, the newspaper continued: “Someone organised it, someone funded it and someone supported it. And they must be punished.”

That is also true. And the same punishment must apply to the Yellow Shirt mobsters, who two years ago occupied Government House for months and trashed it, who sought violently to invade parliament, and who shut down Bangkok’s airports and shattered the tourism industry and the nation’s image.

Yet so far not a single Yellow Shirt leader has been punished.

So instead of wasting time griping at foreign journalists, the likes of Somtow and Arglit should campaign for the punishment of both Red and Yellow Shirt leaders equally.

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