f B by Tom

Email Tom

<< current

The Best of  B :
Blogroll Me!


Recommended blogs:

Andrew Sullivan

The Volokh Conspiracy
Daniel W. Drezner
The Belgravia Dispatch

The Dissident Frogman
Where is Raed?

Ken and Lat's Links


[Powered by Blogger]

Listed on Blogwise


by Tom


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

 B  is for BAAAAACK.

After a year of silence, I'm back with a brand-new site and an even more mysterious name. Please check out สาระสนเท่ห์. (In Thai only for the moment, but the English version will be ready any minute now.)

Update Ladies and gentlemen, สาระสนเท่ห์: The English Edition.


Wednesday, December 03, 2003

 B  is for BYE FOR NOW.

After almost a month, you've probably figured this out by now. (Anyone still there?) Sorry for waiting so long before making it "official".

I started this blog because I have things to say and want people to hear them. My main goal is to do what I can to help bridge the yawning gulf of understanding between Thai people and the rational world.

(e.g. Thai people: There's virtually NO oil in Afghanistan and the Iraq war was NOT a "direct-sale product demo" for US weapons. If your media told you otherwise, that's because it totally stinks. Rational World: Your media, while not stinking, is mostly way off the mark about Thai politics. The Economist is particularly bad on this account: "Chuan's reformist zeal" sounds just like Gray Davis's charm or Bill Clinton's chastity. And don't you think it rather weird that the Thaksin government is simultaneously accused of populism and being beholden to Big Business? On a different note, you should keep in mind the scandalously low journalistic and academic standards in Thailand (and other countries like it) the next time you hear someone says "the whole world" thinks this or "the whole world" is against that.)

Nothing about that has changed. My goal is far from achieved and I still feel as strongly about it as ever. What's more, I'm very happy with this blog and with having taken a step, however small, toward my objective. Overall, this has been very positive experience.

Each enterprise, however, is not justified by net benefits alone. Because of opportunity cost, its benefits must be weighed against those of other options. I'm speaking here not as a blogger, but as a reader. The last couple months have seen an emergence of several excellent Iraqi blogs (like this and this). In comparison with those, my blog seems downright trivial, and of all frivolities (many of them on the net) that waste your time and mine everyday, I'd rather this not be one. Briefly put, as things are now, I wouldn't read my own blog.

This blog will resume if and when I have something worthwhile to say on a daily basis. Until then, I'll just sit back and try to limit my blog consumption to half an hour per day.

Thank you having read me up to now. Till next time.


P.S. I really should leave it at that but can't help it when the Bunkum Post has, for the second time, published my letter (third from top) with all the scare quotes removed! Here's the original version:

Dear Editor,

Citing a source in the Task Force 976, the Bangkok Post reported that Camp Lima, where the Thai contingent is based, is being attacked because the “locals” are “badly treated” (Nov. 30).

Indeed. You go round up criminal suspects (for a fatal assault on coalition troops, by the way), tying their hands and covering their heads (quelle horreur!) and the innocent locals have no choice but to rain 82mm mortar shells on the people who treat their sickness, build their schools and police their neighborhoods. There, that’s for treating us so badly!

This report is typical of the Thai media in failing miserably to acknowledge the differences among Iraqis—between whose houses were raided and those whose tips made the raids possible; between the criminals (not necessarily Iraqi, actually) who blew up police stations and the Iraqi officers and civilians who perished as a result; and between those who would commit the wickedest outrages in order to frustrate the coalition’s efforts (just as they did to prolong Saddam’s regime) and those who swore vengeance on such thugs. According to our “news” professionals, Iraqis simply stand together on one side and the coalition, on the other.

With one emphatic exception being our Thai contingent. Despite growing hostility, the reports go, our soldiers, unlike “the others”, are well loved. While “the others” are violent and boorish, we are gentle and civil. We’re here to help, treating patients and building schools (unlike “the others”?) and Iraqis appreciate that. Look, of more than a hundred thousand foreign troops now in Iraq, it’s only to the 443 of us that children say sawasdee and khob khun!

And the attacks? According to the Post story, that’s fine by us as long as the perpetrators are “selective”. Shells, it’s the others!

Sanpaworn Vamvanij

And of course, the all-important last sentence, cut in the Post version, wouldn't make sense to those ignorant of the reference it's making. Didn't I tell you our media stinks? (Okay, okay, maybe it's my fault that I had in mind the direct translation of "L'enfer, c'est les autres" instead of "Hell is other people" which is a lot more current.)

P.P.S. Now it's the real goodbye.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Better to stick with Garfield
Having committed myself to being a lifelong student of English, I try to be perceptive to new developments in the language. Recently I've noticed a few of instances of the expression "Bizarro world", the latest of which in this Dowd nonsense.

But why? Are the Bizarro cartoons really that famous? What for? Being both unsubtle and unfunny? Now that's bizarre, for that combination is neither intriguing nor rare!

Bizarro in the November 11 issue of the Bangkok Post features a pair of mother and son. The mother says:

Get packed. Your school just closed, so we're sending you to the ones we're building in IRAQ.

Ha ha. In the Bizarro world, the extreme Left borrow lines from the extreme Right.

But that, regrettably, is also the case in the real world. And I don't turn to the comics page just to be reminded of how empty the empty half of the world can be.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003


First day in office for Wattana Muangsuk as full-fledged Minister of Commerce. A case of blogs getting results?

No? I see you don't believe the Blogging One.

And you complain about your academia?

I'd long been itching to write about Thirayuth Boonmi, but had never thought it worthwhile until reading a glowing profile of him a few weeks ago in the Bunkum Post.

A professor at the prestigious Thammasat University (prestige, of course, is relative), Thirayuth is one of those "academics" whose views can be summed up as: The world is all fouled up and the West (read America) is singularly to be blamed.

Nothing new there. We're used to those hacks' warped polemics, which have time and again been shredded into pieces by real scholars.

Still, Thirayuth is in a class of his own in sheer ignorance. Lacking even the most basic knowledge about the world, he's unfit even to follow the intellectually bankrupt footsteps of, say, Noam Chomsky, who would only be embarrassed by him.

Yes, it's possible to be so bad as to embarrass someone who epitomizes the term "idiotarion". Let me demonstrate that first by telling you this: Thirayuth doesn't know what "the West" means.

In his article titled "ทิศทางประเทศไทย: เมื่อโลกหยุดค้อมหัวให้ตะวันตก" ("Thailand's direction: When the world stops kowtowing to the West", Matichon Weekly, April 4-10, 2003), he wrote:

...  ก็ปรากฎชัดต่อชาวโลก[ว่า]พฤติกรรมของสหรัฐและประเทศตะวันตกส่วนใหญ่ล้วนขัดแย้งกับคำประกาศของชาติตะวันตกเอง เช่น การเคารพสิทธิเสรีภาพประชาธิปไตยของมนุษย์ การเคารพสิทธิมนุษยชน ล้วนแต่เป็นสิ่งที่ชาติตะวันตกพูดอย่างทำอย่างมาแล้วทั้งสิ้น

ทหารสหรัฐสังหารผู้บริสุทธิ์หลายแสนคนในเวียดนาม โซมาเลีย และเกรนาดา



... [It] has become obvious to the world community that the conducts of the US and most other Western nations are all contradictory to the West's own tenets; like regard for human's liberty [and] democracy, regard for human rights; [these] are all the things about which Western nations have been hypocritical.

US soldiers killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Vietnam, Somalia and Grenada.

French special police killed Algeria's nationalist movement and tens of thousands of civilians.

Russia killed up to a hundred thousand Muslims in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

[my translation from Thai, emphasis added]

Yep, that's right. Russia, also known as the Soviet Union at the time of the Afghan invasion, is part of "the West". And boy, was it being untrue to its "Western" values!

What is this? Does Thirayuth think "the West" means "white"? He's really straying into dangerous territory there.

Should we be grateful, then, that he doesn't always think in racial terms? Only two paragraphs before the above-quoted, he wrote:

... อำนาจและความมั่นคงทางเศรษฐกิจของตะวันตกก็ลดลง จากที่เคยมีความมั่งคั่งเป็น 85.6 เปอร์เซ็นต์ของจีดีพีโลกในปี 1900 ก็ลดลงมาเหลือเพียง 50 กว่าเปอร์เซ็นต์ในช่วงสิ้นศตวรรษ คาดการณ์ได้ว่าอีกราว 2 ทศวรรษข้างหน้า จีนและห้าเสือเอเชียจะเติบโตอย่างรวดเร็วต่อไป เศรษฐกิจญี่ปุ่น รัสเซีย และอินเดียก็ควรขยายตัวพอสมควร เช่นเดียวกับประเทศยุโรปตะวันออกและประเทศมุสลิมที่เคยอยู่ใต้อาณัติของรัสเซีย

... the West's economic power and security are also declining, its wealth decreasing from being 85.6 percent of world GDP in 1900 to merely 50 percent at the end of of the century. [We] can predict that in the next two decades, China and the five Asian tigers will continue to grow rapidly; Japan's, Russia's and India's economies also should expand satisfactorily, just as [those of] Eastern European countries and Muslim countries that used to be under Russia's suzerainty. [my translation from Thai, emphasis added]

Judge for yourself what's worse: the flagrancy per se of Thirayut's counting Russia as a Western country or his blatant willingness to turn around and contradict himself in order to degrade "the West", whatever it happens to be at the time.

Or perhaps you find even more objectionable his, shall we say, unorthodox facts and figures. Be warned, though, that those are ubiquitous in all Thirayuth's utterances and you could go crazy trying to call him out falsehood by falsehood.

So I won't do that. My point is already well served by sticking with the very most astounding examples of his ignorance.

Here's another one. Thirayuth being a committed America-hater and his article being about, insofar as this befuddled screed is about anything, the world's political and social landscape after the watershed Iraq war, you'd have expected him to wax vituperous about the neocons, right? Wrong, he didn't mention neo-conservatism once in the whole article.

But of course, it wouldn't be like Thirayuth to write a paragraph without an "ism" and here in particular he needs one to blame for the evil war. So what ism does he turn to? Well, after that bit about "the West", this shouldn't be too shocking:

สำนัก realism หรือสำนักอำนาจ-ประโยชน์นิยม สำนักนี้กล่าวว่า แต่ละรัฐแต่ละชาติจะมองกันในแง่ร้าย ถือประโยชน์ของตนเป็นใหญ่ จึงมักนำไปสู่ความรุนแรงหรือสงครามมากครั้งในโลก

. . .

กรณืสงครามครั้งนี้จะผลักดันให้โลกคิดไปตามแนว realism หรือแนว neo realism ซึ่งเน้นความขัดแย้งระหว่างอารยธรรมมากขึ้น

Realism, or doctrine of power and [self] interests. This doctrine states that each state, each nation will be cynical toward each other and gives precedence to one's own self interests, hence [this cynicism] has led to many a war in the world.

. . .

This war will compel the world to think along the lines of realism or neo-realism, which emphasizes clashes of civilizations. [my translation from Thai, poor word choices original, emphasis added]

So realism leads to wars, and even clashes of civilizations? Oh yes, I remember Henry Kissinger's taking America into the ping-pong war with China and the détente clash with the Soviet Union.

Gee, how shocked will Thirayut be when he learns that, in loathing realism, he has one thing in common with the hawks who have come to be known as the neoconservatives and who provided intellectual firepower to the War in Iraq?

That is, of course, hypothetical. He will never learn that, or anything else. If Thirayuth's anachronistic obsession with "realism" (mentioned six times in the article) suggests that this man stopped absorbing new information long ago, his total misapprehension of it reveals that he did so even earlier.

Still, Thirayut didn't completely shut everything out. He did pick up bits and pieces here and there, which, while far from constituting "information", do provide him with new ways to make a fool of himself.

Take neo-conservatism for example. Despite being utterly oblivious about the doctrine, Thirayut did know a neocon (if only by the name, as will become obvious) and even mentioned him in the article:

สำนักระบบโลก... ครอบคลุมหลายสำนักคิด ทั้ง สำนักเสรีนิยมที่มองว่าท้ายสุดโลกจะพัฒนาเชื่อมโยงอยู่ภายใต้ระบบเศรษฐกิจดียวและอุดมการณ์เดียวคือเสรีนิยมด้วย เช่น ความคิดนาย F. Fukuyama...

สงครามรุกรานอิรักครั้งนี้ ทำให้แนวคิดระบบโลกไม่ว่าจะเป็นมาร์กซิสม์ ชุมชนนิยม หรือโลกาภิวัฒน์ขาดพลังในการอธิบายลงไป

The school of Global Order... covers many schools of thoughts including Liberalism which foresees that the world will eventually develop and be connected under one economic system and one ideology that is Liberalism, like the thinking of Mr. F. Fukuyama...

This war of aggression against Iraq will cause the thinking of the Global Order school, be it Marxism, Communitism [Communautarisme?], and globalization lose explaining power. [my translation from Thai, emphasis added]

While I understand little of this quote (particularly that "Global Order" bit), this much is clear: Thirayuth thinks Fukuyama is Liberal (not "classically liberal", mind you) and implies that he's against the war in Iraq.

Yep, and Reagan is a left-winger who opposed the Cold War.

All this should be enough to give you an idea what kind of person Thirayuth is. No, he's no communist, socialist, leftist or any other ideological creature, whatever he thinks of himself and regardless of what the stereotypes tell you. Just as a color-blind person cannot have a favorite color, Thirayuth cannot have an ideology.

Nor is he a "romantic" -- a bookish academic out of touch with the real world -- as his critics in the TRT Party dismiss him. Such a characterization not only makes a travesty of the word "academic", but is also slanderous to the notions of being romantic (like Beethoven), bookish (like Nietzsche) and even out of touch (like the current Tories).
Rather, Thirayuth -- a political science professor who considers the Soviet Union part of the West, believes realism is about promoting clashes of civilizations and doesn't know about neo-conservatism -- can only be described as the composite of a fraud, an idiot and a madman.

That is, of course, not how he was portrayed in the Bunkum Post's nauseously fawning feature story. The piece is titled "Thinking is beautiful" and ends with "his advice to younger people... shows that the teacher in him is rising."


If whatever it is that's in Thirayuth (I wouldn't call it "teacher") is rising, then Thailand is sinking, like that brown stuff in the bowl, waiting for his "beautiful thinking" to flush it all down the drain.

Which might very well be the case, given the alarming frequency with which Thirayuth's drivels swamp the front pages of Thai newspapers.

But no, that's NOT the case as long as Thirayuth is still ranting away on a soapbox while the bully pulpit is occupied by the two entities for which he reserve most of his boundless hatred.

That would be America (of Planet Earth) and PM Thaksin (of Thailand).

Please support them.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Dateline Bunkum
Having read my four Dateline Bunkum's 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.

'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 periodicals.

This point is aptly illustrated today by the accession to the Dateline Bunkum club of the Bangkok Post -- Amnesty International's newspaper of choice.

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 for itself.

I'll say something anyway, though, just in case a Post staffer is reading and, as to be expected, doesn't quite get it.

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 BONKERS.

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 everything.

Is the world really that gloomy? Or is some journalist on crack?

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 such statistics.

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 and rather 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.


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 added]

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 about 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 about 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.


Twelve percent died as a result of complications.

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 70,000 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 abortion-death hyperpower?

One word: MAD


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 "rubbish".

 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 this op-ed. I haven't yet  gotten to its arguments, which happen to be exceedingly imbecile, too.

Perhaps I 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... [Previous Dateline Bunkum]

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Dem-agogues will be Dem-agogues

Did I see this coming or what? [from the BaPo]

Mr Jurin doubted the government's claim the United Nations had requested military assistance in rebuilding Iraq.

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 singular objective?

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

Penultimate paragraph:

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 sequitur.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Off to a foreign country
Bon weekend, everyone. See you next Friday. No boxing matches while I'm away, okay?

Yet another incidental, isolated case
A lot of comments there two posts below. I have no idea how to start responding (and I've tried) and so I won't. The blog, though, must go on.

The Bunkum Post is at it again: [From an editorial titled "Is it hubris that defines Thaksin?"]

Mr Thaksin propagates the line that any criticism of him is unpatriotic, and any dissent to his views undermines the national interest.

I challenge you, the Bunkum Post, to cite a single instance of Thaksin's propagating such a "line".

I can, however, point to countless cases in which the Post manipulated quotes and distorted facts in order to paint a despotic picture of the PM. The above is one and there are more in the immediately preceding paragraph:

Mr Thaksin arrested dissidents who picketed the Burmese embassy last month, praised the Rangoon military junta for positive steps towards democracy even though it continues to hold Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest,...

The praise came not from Thaksin, but the ASEAN as a whole. How can the Thai PM be singled out and blamed for the spinelessness of an organization whose willingness to uphold the "non-interference" principle at any cost long preceded him? Is Thaksin now so domineering on the ASEAN stage that "L'ASEAN, c'est Thaksin"? (Ooh, his dictatorship isn't just domestic, but regional!) And even supposing that, wouldn't this craven appeasement of the Burmese junta reflect just the opposite of "hubris", which the Post accuses Thaksin of?

If you were smarter (and more logical), the Bunkum Post, you would leave that whole Burma bit out of this "hubris" piece, wait a few of days and then turn around to attack Thaksin for being soft on our western neighbor.

Be careful, though, when debating Burma policies. Some blogger with good memory may point out that the last time Thaksin took a tough stance against the Burmese, the Post's beloved Mr. Chuan seemed even more indignant than the junta itself ("they have honor and dignity").

... attempted to ban all protests during the Apec meetings

Aww, not this canard again! But, ah, it's a little different this time. Thaksin didn't "ban" protests, he merely "attempted" to do so. What kind of dictator can't even affect a "protest ban" (which incidentally had already been lavishly reported by numerous Post stories)? Perhaps Mr. Chuan's "honor and dignity" folk can teach him a thing or two.

For now, though, there's no ban -- not even an attempted one -- just an appeal by Thaksin for people not to protest during that one APEC week (which the Post itself happens to echo, albeit with its familiar spin). Does that impinge on free speech? I don't think so, as people could and did go ahead with their demonstrations. But if you think it does, do answer this: Who are all those protests are aimed at?

The editorial doesn't say, but given that the subject matter is Thaksin's intolerance, it certainly appears as though the PM wants to gag his critics during his showcase event. That, however, can't be further from the truth. The protests are aimed first and foremost at America and its president. Particularly, the protesters originally planned a big rally at the World Trade Center, just across the street from the Grand Hyatt Erawan, where President Bush was staying. That wouldn't have been a way to treat a royal guest (Bush was officially invited for an audience with the King) and, more importantly still, the gathering would've posed an enormous security risk.

And when all is said and done, demonstrations did take place -- not at the WTC, but in other places including the National Police Headquarters -- and with absolute impunity. I wonder if the Post editors are disappointed. Why can't Thaksin be a bit more despotic!?

... banned reporters from asking him questions on politics and NGO protests

Yet another ban! And this time he succeeded! Think about it, a ban on questions! What is it, a year term for each question asked? Apparently, you can scream Thaksin is a US lackey but you can't ask him how he feels.

That's quite strange, to say the least. So let's take a look at how the PM actually issued this ban: [Notice how the Post calls (virtually all anti-US) protesters  "democracy activists". There are many other problems with this story, but I don't have time for them.]

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has forbidden the media from asking questions about politics and the entry ban on foreign NGOs until after the Apec summit.

"Can we agree that from Monday, Oct 13, you will be forbidden from asking about politics or the NGOs?"

Hmmmm, is that a "ban"? If so, it's a rather uncommon sort. Why seek agreement from those will be "forbidden" from doing something? What if the reporters say, "No deal"? Is something lost in the translation?

Let's find out: [from Matchon]

พ.ต.ท.ทักษิณกล่าวว่า ส่วนกลุ่มผู้ชุมนุมชาวไทยก็ขอให้ประท้วงให้ถูกที่ถูกเวลา หากไม่ถูกก็เชิญให้ย้ายที่ แต่อย่าไปสนใจ อย่าให้ความสำคัญ อย่าไปให้ราคามาก ราคาอยู่ที่ประเทศไทยที่วันนี้รัฐบาลจะสร้างให้ประเทศไทยเป็นที่ยอมรับ แต่เรื่องจุกจิกพวกนี้อย่าไปให้ความสำคัญ

"เขียนกันเรื่องอื่นสิ วันนี้ผมพูดตั้งเยอะ มาเขียนทำไมไอ้เรื่องบ้าๆ อย่างนี้ ไอ้เรื่องพวกนี้เขียนไปเสียเวลา นี่เราตกลงกันได้หรือไม่ว่า ตั้งแต่วันจันทร์(13 ตุลาคม)เป็นต้นไป ห้ามถามเรื่องการเมือง เรื่องเอ็นจีโอ ถามแต่เรื่องสร้างสรรค์ได้ไหม เรื่องปรับ ครม.ก็ถามวันที่ 23 ตุลาคม"

Aha! While "ห้าม" does normally mean "forbid" or "forbidden", that interpretation is very much belied by "นี่เราตกลงกันได้หรือไม่" ("Can we make a deal"). Rather, the most accurate translation of this remark (according to meaning instead of letter) would be, "Can we make a deal that from Monday, October 13, you won't ask [me] about politics and NGOs". A minor discrepancy perhaps, but it does make the "ban" talk that so much more far-fetched.

And we haven't even gotten to the context: [translated from the above citation]

Pol. Lt. Col. Thaksin said that Thai demonstrators are asked to protest at the right place at the right time; if not [at the right place] then please move; but don't pay attention to them, don't give them significance, don't give them so much price [weight]; the price [significance] is Thailand which the government will today build into a Thailand that is reputable; don't give significance to these trivial things.

"Write about other things. I've said a lot today. Why write about such crazy stuff? To write these things are a waste of time. Can we make a deal that from Monday, October 13, you won't ask [me] about politics and NGOs? Can you ask only constructive things? About the cabinet reshuffle, [you can] ask on October 23."

Rather irritable there, isn't he? Right before the most high-profile political gathering Thailand has ever hosted, the man is clearly under enormous strain and instead of cutting him some slack the Bunkum Post distorted one exasperated remark into a "ban", which, according to my dictionary, means "legal prohibition : official interdict". Gee, you are really running out of issues, aren't you?

[Continuing with the editorial]

...and accused his critics of harbouring personal jealousies against him and damaging the national interest through their criticisms at a time he is playing host to the Apec summit.

I'm not sure where this is coming from and after all we've been through, I certainly wouldn't take it at face value. But in the highly unlikely case that every word is true and precise, BIG DEAL! This prime minister has been called "Hitler sans mustache" by his critics, and the Bunkum Post is faulting him for hitting back with "jealousies" and "damaging national interest"? It truly baffles me that you're so desperately in lack of ammunition and yet keep attacking regardless.

Writing all this, I'm flabbergasted. It's all very incredible -- and highly disturbing.

Let me end this post with a quote from someone who thinks I'm obsessively attacking the Bangkok Post in search of publicity:

The old rules still apply - by which I mean, write unreasonable nonsense and expect a reaction. Not necessarily from the victim concerned, but from readers, who find such blatant unfairness objectionable. It offends our basic sense of justice.


For more  B , please see the archives.


All original content on this website is governed by
a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License