Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Having read my four
to date, you might be led to believe that this column is only about blatant errors in
Matichon. That is, however, incorrect. The Dateline
Bunkum dishonor may be bestowed on an article from any Thai
newspaper that contains a statement (or statements) so egregiously and
unquestionably wrong that the condemnation of it transcends
all ideologies and viewpoints. You know, I'm talking about
the kind of mistake that makes you wonder how the author
made through college (assuming he or she did), let only
became a journalist.
Matichon's hitherto monopoly of Dateline Bunkum's
space shouldn't fool you into thinking that it's an exceptionally
bad newspaper in Thailand. While Matichon's quality is indeed very,
very poor, that is a norm rather than an exception for Thai
This point is aptly illustrated today by the accession to
the Dateline Bunkum club of the Bangkok Post -- Amnesty International's newspaper
An op-ed by Sanitsuda Ekachai -- the Post's Assistant
Editor -- states:
According to the reproductive health advocacy
group, Population Council, as many as 70% of women have
experienced unwanted pregnancies. Forced by
circumstances, almost 14 % of this number attempted to have
an abortion. [emphasis added]
No need for any explanations; the flagrancy of the error speaks
I'll say something anyway, though, just in case a Post
staffer is reading and, as to be expected, doesn't quite
Gee, how to explain this? I mean, do you really believe that
seven out of ten women have been unintentionally pregnant?
It's not clear whether Khun Sanitsuda's talking about women
all over the world or just Thai women. My rebuttal will be
based on world configurations but the same logic can be
applied to Thailand in isolation and the same conclusion
will be reached -- that Khun Sanitsuda's totally gone
Let's do a quick mental calculation. World population is
about 6 billion, half of which is female: 3 billion. About
30% of population are under 15 and so there are about
2.1 billion women, defined as females aged 15 or over. (Go
here for more precise figures; you may prefer to a
higher age threshold of 18 or 20, but the resulting number
wouldn't be much different.)
That means, according to Khun Sanitsuda, the
number of unintended pregnancies that have occurred to this
current generation is at least 2.1 x 70% = 1.5
billion -- a staggering figure that is roughly one-fourth
of that for world population. ("At least" because a woman
may very well have had more than one unintended pregnancy.)
What happened to all those 1,500,000,000 unwanted fetuses then? A. they
were aborted and thus current world population would be 25%
larger had they not been; B. they lived to become babies but
died soon afterwards, all 1,500,000,000 of them; C. they
live among us today and so one out of every four persons now
living wasn't meant to be conceived; D. a bit of
Is the world really that gloomy? Or is some journalist on
And what am I doing trying to demonstrate the absurdity of
this claim through interpretations when the original
statement already does it best itself? "70% of women have
experienced unwanted pregnancies." CRAZY, period.
And while the assertion is so blatantly wrong that it
doesn't matter who is or is not the source, I did make a quick
search at the Population Council website and found no
Instead, I came across this
report, which puts the percentage at 20% for Peruvian
women. ("Jain found that one-fifth of the Peruvian women had
had unintended pregnancies.") I can't vouch for that
figure, but if it's accurate, then it should be quite representative of
a significant chunk of the world, Peru being a developing
conservative (catholic) country. But then again, if many
countries are like Peru, wouldn't the percentages in the remaining
countries have to be much higher than 70 (and probably
even 100) in order to pull the world average up to Khun Sanitsuda's 70%?
Like I said, CRAZY.
[YOU MAY WANT TO TAKE A BREAK HERE. SANITSUDA'S ARTICLE
STILL CONTAINS TWO MORE MIND-BOGGLINGLY OBVIOUS BUSHWAS.]
Khun Sanitsuda went on:
According to the Public Health Ministry,
300,000 women had abortions in 2000, most at illegal
clinics or through dangerous means at home alone...[emphasis
Holy Baloney, common sense is really not common.
Let me make one thing clear first. Here, Khun Sanitsuda is
certainly talking only about women in Thailand, not
worldwide, since legal induced abortions in the US alone are
three times the quoted figure.
Time for another quick calculation: Thailand's
population is about 60 million, half of which is female: 30
million, of which 300,000 is one percent. Hence, according
to Khun Sanitsuda, one out of a hundred Thai females had an
abortion in 2000!
Females, mind you, include everyone from my toddling niece
to my 81-year-old grandmother and beyond. And Khun Sanitsuda is not
claiming "only" that one percent of them have ever had an
abortion, but that one percent did so in that one year!
Another way to look at it: since Thailand's 2000 birth rate was
17 per 1,000 people, that means there were about
17/1,000 x 60 million = 1 million live births in 2000. Ignoring
for simplicity's sake the possibilities of some women
undergoing more than one abortion in that year (which would
raise the percentage even higher), Khun Sanitsuda's
300,000 figure means that 300,000/(1,000,000+300,000) =
23% of all Thai pregnancies in 2000 were aborted.
That's one out of five, ladies and gentlemen!
Khun Sanitsuda, may I remind you that crack cocaine is
illegal in Thailand?
Yet another approach to this: Khun Sanisuda clearly means
her 300,000 figure to represent mostly (or even entirely)
induced abortions. For comparison with a country of similar
population size, the UK recorded
197,370 (185,375 + 11,995) cases of induced abortions in
2000. Are induced abortions 50% more prevalent in Thailand,
where they're banned and people are more conservative, than
in Britain, where they're legally available and people are
more progressive? Sure, I grant that the Brits are probably
much better informed about protection but, still, Khun
Sanitsuda and the Bunkum Post are absolutely NUTS.
Here's the most relevant paper on the subject I found on
the net. It quotes the official figure of 56,369 for
abortions of all types in 1996 and reports 45,990 cases from
the authors' own survey in 1999. While those numbers are
almost certainly underreported, they are likely to be
much closer to the actual counts than anything dreamed up by Khun Sanitsuda.
To be fair, the 300,000 figure did indeed show up in the
report, but it is for the year 1991 and is one
of those unsupported guesstimates. I strongly believe it is
overstated and, in any case, Thailand's induced abortion
rate appears to have been falling substantially in recent
years following the global trend as women's contraceptive needs are
increasingly being met.
[HANG IN THERE, JUST ONE MORE UNBELIEVABLY STUPID GUFF.]
Twelve percent died as a result of
It is natural that the death of Baby Apec has stirred moral
indignation. But it escapes me how we can allow 36,000
women -- yes, 36,000 -- a year to die without doing
anything to prevent it. [emphasis added]
It is natural that you make yet another glaring error, Khun
Sanitsuda, but it escapes me how your editor... No, no
surprise there, either. This is the Bunkum Post
we're talking about.
Most sane people, however, would see right away that it's simply not
possible for so many as 36,000 Thai women -- oh no, not 36,000 --
to die each year because of unsafe abortions.
Here's another simple calculation the Post editors
are incapable of. Thailand's crude death rate is
6.86/1,000 population, which means every year there are
about 6.86/1,000 x 60 million = 411,600 deaths in Thailand.
Since 36,000 is roughly 9% of 411,600, Khun Sanitsuda is
effectively saying that 9 out of a hundred deaths in
Thailand are caused by unsafe abortions!
And even that would still be understating abortion's
deadliness, if the 36,000 figure were correct. Nature being
unfair, only females can get pregnant and hence only they
can die from abortions. Thus that means, according to Khun
Sanitsuda, unsafe abortions cause more than 18% of
Thailand's female deaths or one out of five! ("More than"
because annual deaths aren't split evenly between males and
females -- the rate being
significantly lower for the latter.)
Are you still following, Mr. Post staffer?
Let me emphasize, Khun Sanitsuda in effect wants us to
believe that at least one out of five Thai women dies of unsafe
abortion. That's just INSANE. "The
Newspaper You Can Trust", my foot!
Here's another approach toward the same conclusion: Take
Khun Sanitsuda's 36,000 figure for unsafe abortion deaths
and, without even adding all sorts of other
pregnancy-related deaths (which would be dwarfed by the
36,000, anyway), compute the
Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) for Thailand. As our live
births are about one million per year, the Sanitsuda-based
MMR would be 3,600 (per 100,000 live births). That is
about 88 times as large as the Malaysian figure (41), 38
times the Vietnamese one (95) and twice the world's (second)
worst (1,800; Sierra Leone). Yeah, Thailand's finally No. 1!
In mothers' deaths!
And now one last angle: the WHO estimates
worldwide deaths annually from unsafe abortions. Is Khun Sanitsuda suggesting that Thai women make up more than half
of that? What are we, the world's
One word: MAD
[AND, YEP, THAT'S ALL OF THE PREPOSTEROUS ERRORS.]
There are three figures in the article and all of them are
fantastically erroneous. How did Khun Sanitsuda and the
Bunkum Post manage that?
A Post staffer once told me most blogs are
If that were indeed the case, then the Bunkum
Post should start a blog for it would fit right in.
That is, however, NOT the case and the Post would
stink as a blog, just as it now stinks as a newspaper.
And all this, mind you, is just about the "factual" part of
op-ed. I haven't yet gotten to its arguments,
which happen to be exceedingly imbecile, too.
never will. So much nonsense to counter, so little time.
update According to the Population Council's answer to my inquiry, the 70% figure is from a study of two villages in Central Thailand and is a life-time estimate. Now the life-time possibility of males in my family experiencing hair loss problems is probably 100%, but that's light-years away from saying 100% have experienced hair losses already. (I know I haven't. Knock on wood.) Now imagine leaping from that to the conclusion that 100% of Thai males are battling hair loss right now...
Sunday, November 02, 2003
Dem-agogues will be Dem-agogues
see this coming or what? [from the
Mr Jurin doubted the government's claim the
United Nations had requested military assistance in
Claim? I wonder what Jurin and the story's reporters
think of the claim that the earth is round.
B is for
BEETHOVEN, BOLERO and BSO (all in one setting!)
A typical Bunkum Post editorial
Iraq is in bad need of a lasting peace
Aren't we all? The question is how to achieve that.
Extract: [print edition only]
The attack on the headquarters of the International
Committee of the Red Cross in Baghdad sent a chill right
around the world. Was it the US-led war on Iraq that brought
us to this?
Yes, we're in this predicament because of the war and we
waged the war because Saddam had proved himself capable and
willing to inflict much worse devastations upon humanity,
not least of all the Iraqi people. Your point is?
Is it time to initiate a political process with peace as its
A political process? Like a cease-fire negotiation
with Saddam, Bathist remnants and foreign jihadis? Well, I
guess we'll have to
nail, um, bring them to
the negotiating table first, and then I'm sure any processes
will proceed smoothly.
Yada yada yada
France, a staunch opponent of the war, has a
point when it stresses the need to restore sovereignty to
the Iraqi people as soon as possible and with its calls for
a political process towards this end. With Iraq still
reeling, and its people's nerves badly on edge after 23
years of war and uncertain survival, it is time to start
talking with all the immediate protagonists, non-partisans
and regional states involved under the chairmanship of a
country free of vested interest.
Thailand must follow the political and
security developments in Iraq because the country has
committed 443 men and women to helping rebuild that nation.
Though the contingent based in Karbala, 100km southwest
of Baghdad, is safe for the time being, its members must be
brought home at the first indication that this is no longer
the case. [emphasis added]
What the..? Where's this coming from? How is withdrawing
stabilizing forces in face danger and chaos going to
contribute to "lasting peace" in anyway?
Oh, I see. The Bunkum Post editors are once again
showing off their uncanny ability to conclude even the most
incoherent, all-over-the place commentary with an outright non
, please see the