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  1. #1
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    The widening battle over foreign perceptions

    http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/o...gn-perceptions


    The widening battle over foreign perceptions

    • Published: 2/07/2010 at 12:00 AM
    • Newspaper section: News

    Thailand's relations with the outside world appear increasingly contentious as the domestic crisis continues. When foreign perceptions are favourable to government policies and actions, they are embraced and disseminated widely in the domestic sphere, particularly state-owned media and information outlets supportive of the incumbent administration.



    Foreign reporters monitor the situation at Bon Kai in Bangkok during the height of the May 17-19 crackdown on red shirt protesters, as black smoke fills the area after protesters set fire to tyres to keep soldiers at bay.



    But when views from outside the country are critical, they tend to be treated with scorn and sometimes outright condemnation.

    Because it expends vast resources and energy combatting adverse perceptions of how Thailand has manifested since the September 2006 military coup, the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva clearly cares about how foreigners view Thailand and how foreign takes should be consistent and conform to official positions.

    The government does not seem to detest the foreign media per se. It selectively prefers the foreign perceptions that toe the official worldview from Bangkok, support the status quo, and obey the mainstream narrative.
    For example, the appointment of Ambassador Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Thailand's permanent representative in Geneva, as president of the United Nations Human Rights Council, has been touted and portrayed as the acceptance and understanding by the international community of the Thai authorities' handling of the domestic unrest and deadly violence in recent months.

    Prior to this high-level international appointment, senior Thai officials have lambasted certain foreign governments for allowing convicted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra freedom of movement in their countries.
    Yet nowhere have foreign perceptions been fought over as controversially as in the foreign media. The foreign media are crucial bridges and intermediaries to the international court of public opinion. Local observers have derided foreign journalists and media for bias in their allegedly rose-tinted coverage of the red shirt protests as democracy aspirants fighting an illegitimate government.

    CNN and BBC, in particular, were the objects of disgust and revulsion to some groups of people. Visceral attacks on online social networks were aimed at correspondents of these leading foreign media.

    Some of the accusations appear justified. Foreign media accounts rarely mentioned that the latest round of red shirt protests was directly connected to the US$1.4 billion confiscation of Thaksin's assets. Fulfilling a threat to mobilise during the assets' judicial deliberation, it was exactly two weeks after the assets seizure that the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship organised the red shirts onto the streets of Bangkok.



    Government spokesman Panithan Wattanayakorn, left, talks to foreign reporters following the clashes between security forces and anti-government UDD demonstrators on April 10.



    As the crisis intensified, a number of foreign journalists "parachuted" in from abroad and told oversimplified and dramatic stories of a pro-democracy movement rising up against an unjust government, whereas both sides preferred different versions of democratic rule.

    While the foreign media have had much to answer for, so does the sitting government. If foreign media were not to be trusted, why did the government blow up stories that were favourable to official viewpoints? For example, when the Financial Times became the first major international news organisation to delve deeper into the militancy of the apparently armed and pro-red "men in black," it was cited by government officials and translated in prominent pro-government media. When the Associated Press filed a story about how Ratchaprasong was unlike Tiananmen, it made the rounds in Thai media. When al-Jazeera took Thaksin's lawyer Robert Amsterdam to task in an interview, it was lauded by the same people who also criticised foreign media coverage. When two foreign reporters embedded in the "men in black" camp relayed their experiences, it was circulated by government and pro-government media arms. The same was the case with a subsequent CNN revelation of the "men in black".

    Thus it appears when foreign media stories coincide with how the government and pro-government groups see things, they are highlighted and even extolled. But when such stories challenged the official reality of events, they were branded as biased or paid by Thaksin in an ill-intentioned strategy to encircle Thailand from the outside world.

    Other times, the journalists whose filings contradicted the government were branded as naive and misinformed because of the Thai exceptionalism and uniqueness. The foreign journalists who get their stories right in the eyes of the government understand Thailand. Others who disagree either misunderstand or intend to undermine this country. That seems to be the polarised dichotomy in the controversy over Thai perceptions of foreign perceptions.

    Interestingly, the Thais who tuned in to foreign media, especially in televised coverage, happen to derive from the relatively more equipped and privileged of the population. Foreign media are not available on state-owned and government-run free-to-air channels that dominate domestic airwaves. Cable and satellite viewership is limited to a fraction of nationwide audiences. Is it the case that the relatively more equipped and privileged are the ones who objected to the foreign media reporting?

    Finally, the question that is not being asked concerns the role of the Thai media. Have the Thai media, particularly the state-dominated electronic media, been fair and balanced in their reporting? If there are at least two sides to any story, as is the cardinal rule of journalism, do both sides of Thailand's divide get to air their views? What would an average person in an average province outside Bangkok, not proficient in the English language, think of CNN's coverage during last April-May disturbances if told about it? Who gets to tell this person's story or does it not deserve to be told?



    • The writer is Director of the Institute of Security and International Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University.
    "Slavery is the daughter of darkness; an ignorant people is the blind instrument of its own destruction; ambition and intrigue take advantage of the credulity and inexperience of men who have no political, economic or civil knowledge. They mistake pure illusion for reality, license for freedom, treason for patriotism, vengeance for justice."-Simón Bolívar

  2. #2
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    http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingn...elf-censorship


    Society pushed media to self-censor



    The extreme polarisation of people's views has pushed the Thai media into a clear mode of self-censorship in covering the red-shirt demonstrations, leaving the foreign media becoming target of Bangkok criticism when their reports have torn down the image of a smiling peaceful nation, speakers told a seminar on "Trends and Dynamics of Media Freedom in Thailand's Political Context" on Friday.‏
    BBC correspondent Alastair Leithead defended the pressing editorial needs of foreign media outlets for fast, analytical but simplistic coverage of the political mayhem.

    In the line of fire and political conflict, there might be words dissatisfying to the establishment in Thailand such as 'rural and urban poor versus Bangkok elite’ and no other details that they would like to hear, but the simplistic ‘class war’ terminology was actually part of this country's woes, said Mr Leithead at the seminar organised by Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS) and the European Union.

    He conceded that foreign news organisations, despite long years of experience, still struggle for balanced and accurate reporting.

    He said that propaganda as news was widely exploited by both the red-shirts and the government, while the surge of new social media such as Twitter had made people sloppy in the way they passed on erroneous information without checking it properly.
    “Foreign media such as CNN and the BBC might be highly criticised over the past few months because the Thai people felt their country’s image as the land of smiles has been hurt. But whatever the case, don’t shoot the messenger,” said the BBC Asia correspondent based in Bangkok.

    Thepchai Yong, Thai Public Broadcasting Service (TPBS) managing director, said both the Thai and foreign media were in working under great difficulty as the past few months had seen an extraordinary situation that made Thai people, especially those in Bangkok, highly emotional.

    “With society evenly split about the legitimacy of the red-shirted protest, the media has to walk a fine line and it turns out to be they have chosen to self-censor in their coverage,” said Mr Thepchai.

    He said the media was not that afraid of state power, but was mindful of polarising public opinion and therefore did not dare to uncover truths which might be unpleasant to society.

    It would not be a small task, especially for the mainstream media, to regain public trust and confidence in their neutrality, as alternative media has spoken the language of the users, said Mr Thepchai.

    “There’s nothing much to say about media freedom, the problem is about how the media will choose to explain things. Not only about the state-controlled media but all the mainstream media to explain why things happen, not only what happens. It’s really a soul-searching challenge,” he said.

    Sunai Phasuk of Human Rights Watch said there were some worrying trends in Thailand including the perception that the Thai media has not adequately presented both sides of the story.

    There was also some hostility towards foreign media which was in contradiction to post-May 1992, when the foreign media was lauded for uncovering the hidden truth.
    “Now the Thai audience has their own views to express, the ability and tools through new media to spread the information,” said Mr Sunai.

    Government propaganda has created fear among the people and has helped keep the watchdog under control, and this situation certainly worries all human right activists, said Mr Sunai.

    Other speakers also criticised the media for self-censorship on such issues as national security and the monarchy, which have become values exploited by the government forpolitical gain and survival.

  3. #3
    I am no longer a Hostage

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    ^- ^^
    Good stuff

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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    “Foreign media such as CNN and the BBC might be highly criticised over the past few months because the Thai people felt their country’s image as the land of smiles has been hurt.
    Pretty sure it was the tanks on the streets and the shooting and killing of civilians that done that, can't really blame the media for that as I'm pretty sure they weren't the ones with guns and other weapons.



  5. #5
    Thailand Expat jandajoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    He said the media was not that afraid of state power, but was mindful of polarising public opinion and therefore did not dare to uncover truths which might be unpleasant to society.
    Bugger. And there was me thinking that good media uncovered truth, regardless.

    It's a bloody shambles.

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    The Thai government, past and present, does not know how to handle the media. It does not understand what a journalist is supposed to do. The Thai government really blew it with its approach to the major news organizations. What did they expect when fanciful allegations and statements were disseminated? Of course those journalists were going to be skeptical and then adopt a "hostile" approach to the authorities when presented with such nonsense.

    Part of the problem also lies with the news organizations themselves. Long gone are the days of professionals on the payroll. Instead, the news organizations have turned to tier III employees employed on stringer contracts. These are people that need a paycheque and that do not necessarily share the professional or work ethics of the oldtimers. They go for the easiest aspect of a story. If you look at the news organizations like the BBC and CNN that had people in the field, the reports were more robust and detailed. The BBC at least has standards for its independents, which I do not think AP and Reuters match.
    Kindness is spaying and neutering one's companion animals.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog View Post
    Thai exceptionalism and uniqueness.
    That is one way of putting it!!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by zygote1 View Post
    .... These are people that need a paycheque
    Yes, its pretty annoying when pesky journalists expect to be paid, and not just survive on gravel and fresh air when their work is copied for free by websites.

    Still, while there are hundreds of millions of people terrified about paedophiles, there will be stringers to churn out stories for a dollar a word to satisfy demand.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by jandajoy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    He said the media was not that afraid of state power, but was mindful of polarising public opinion and therefore did not dare to uncover truths which might be unpleasant to society.
    Bugger. And there was me thinking that good media uncovered truth, regardless.

    It's a bloody shambles.
    Right. I thought its purpose was "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable*," but what the hell do I know.

    *though that quotation may be taken out of context.

  10. #10
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    Thais generally believe themselves and their country to be beyond criticism. Not really a unique point of view when you think about it. I am comfortable criticizing my country but don't like it when foreigners do it. Thais, on the other hand, have no concept of self-criticism. Their way is the right way, end of discussion.
    "If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting. "
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by zygote1 View Post
    The Thai government, past and present, does not know how to handle the media. It does not understand what a journalist is supposed to do. The Thai government really blew it with its approach to the major news organizations. What did they expect when fanciful allegations and statements were disseminated? Of course those journalists were going to be skeptical and then adopt a "hostile" approach to the authorities when presented with such nonsense.

    Part of the problem also lies with the news organizations themselves. Long gone are the days of professionals on the payroll. Instead, the news organizations have turned to tier III employees employed on stringer contracts. These are people that need a paycheque and that do not necessarily share the professional or work ethics of the oldtimers. They go for the easiest aspect of a story. If you look at the news organizations like the BBC and CNN that had people in the field, the reports were more robust and detailed. The BBC at least has standards for its independents, which I do not think AP and Reuters match.
    Can't imagine what the Schools of Journalism and respected faculties within Thai universities approach these sedentary and obvious useless 'training', as investigative journalism {domestically} is hushed - always has been. So, grand organisations such as the Thai Journalists Association and Thai Television Journalists Association become rhetorical symbols.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jools View Post
    Thais generally believe themselves and their country to be beyond criticism. Not really a unique point of view when you think about it. I am comfortable criticizing my country but don't like it when foreigners do it. Thais, on the other hand, have no concept of self-criticism. Their way is the right way, end of discussion.
    Their self-critique {domestically} has it's form through joking and humour.

  13. #13
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    One voice well heard

    EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW

    One voice well heard

    By Jintana Panyaarvudh
    Kornchanok Raksaseri

    The Nation
    Published on August 24, 2010

    ZeZe na Pombejra has family ties to both Thaksin and Abhisit, but it was her complaint to CNN that turned heads - and earned death threats

    The name attached to the open letter to CNN three months ago wouldn't have meant much to their publicrelations people - or to the millions of others who read it in newspapers around the globe.Napas na Pombejra, however, has perhaps better credentials than most people for complaining about the perceived skew in the televisionnews coverage of Thailand's bloody spring.

    The diminutive, 25-year-old Napas, who goes by the nickname ZeZe, is related to both Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's wife Pimpen (whose mother's maiden name is na Pombejra) and Khunying Pojaman na Pombejra, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's exwife (who has reverted to her maiden name).

    "My greatgrandfather and the father of Thanpuying Phoonsuk Banomyong were brothers," says ZeZe, an associate lawyer at a Bangkok firm that handles primarily corporate and commercial cases and international contract disputes.

    Thanpuying Phoonsuk was the wife of another former premier, Pridi Banomyong, and a member of the same extensive clan, the na Pombejras.

    Educated overseas while her own father's work took the family to various countries, ZeZe became fluent in English - and also used to speaking out when she felt the moment demanded it.

    "You don't have to be particularly interested in politics to watch the news and care about what's going on around you," she says. "It's hard not to have an opinion, as a human being. When events affect us, you can't pretend they're not there."

    Watching the CNN news reports from Bangkok in April and May, ZeZe was appalled by what she saw as distortions of the truth, as were many others.

    Foreign correspondents for the network gave the world daily accounts of "poor farmers" standing up to military might to try and restore Thaksin to power after his ouster and replacement by an "illegitimate" government.

    ZeZe vented her frustration on Facebook, earning general applause, and then - again, like many others - she wrote a letter to CNN, except that hers ending up getting a lot more notice.

    She initially wrote an open letter to CNN and then copied it to the BBC and other media networks.

    People in both the Netherlands and Spain translated it and posted it online, and in late May, ZeZe says, "I was visiting a friend in South Korea and she introduced me to her friend by saying, 'This is ZeZe - she's the one who wrote the letter!'

    "Ninety per cent of the feedback from the public to my open letter was positive. Someone posted it on the OK Nation blog and I got email from all over the world."

    There have been critics, too - millions of Thais found the CNN reports perfectly accurate - but ZeZe says she has no problem with that "as long as they're constructive".

    "Some people disagreed with me but liked my initiative in speaking up."

    On the other hand, ZeZe's mother was understandably upset to read comments on Thailanguage Web boards that threatened her daughter with rape and even murder.

    At her parents' imploring, ZeZe has stopped driving by herself to work, wears sunglasses in public, bolstered her Facebook privacy settings and is more careful about what she says on Twitter.

    Some foreign journalists, meanwhile, have taken umbrage with her.

    "They get sensitive," ZeZe says. "I attacked one of them and they feel I attacked them all.

    "This might be why doctors get upset over the proposed malpractice law - it's like, when you attack one of us, you ruin everyone's credibility.

    "It's understandable," she says. "I didn't realise this before. I just believed that journalists are professionals and experts at what they do, so we expect them to abide by their own code of ethics."

    ZeZe was in England pursuing her master's degree when Thaksin was pulled from power in the 2006 coup.

    "I wanted to know what had happened, so I checked all the news websites." It's remained her habit - as well as the The Nation, Bangkok Post, CNN and BBC, she reads the New York Times, Al Jazeera and Reuters.

    "But typically it will all start with CNN, because wherever you are in the world, that's your first stop for international coverage," she says.

    ZeZe actually picked up some journalism experience working briefly for "Newsline" on Thai TV. She has a reporter's natural curiosity, and courage to spare.

    She attended April's rally of "multicolour shirts" on Silom Road, getting video for her Facebook page. When M79 grenades exploded there the next day, her parents found out she'd been to the rally and forbade her from attending any more, even taking her car away.

    "I think they were sort of proud that I took the initiative, though, because my mother, who's also on Facebook, saw my video there and clicked 'Like'!

    "Only the night before she was scolding me - 'It's not worth your life!' But I don't regret going. I got to talk to a soldier. He was really sweet. I hope he came out okay.

    "Normally you don't think about how soldiers feel, right? They were standing there for hours in the heat."

    ZeZe says she felt no sense of danger at the rally.

    "At one point some motorcycletaxi drivers were throwing marbles from the bridge, but people were just warning each other to look out.

    "I'm pretty sure that on the red side, people were also taking care of each other. I think it's a very Thai thing.

    "But I was hearing both sides calling for democracy, for justice, and I thought, 'They're asking for the same thing, so why are they on different sides?' That was a very sad moment for me."

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    So, a 25 year old PAD girl, who comes from exceedingly rich stock and has probably never done a days work in her life was "a voice well heard". Really? Maybe on ASTV, it was ridiculed elsewhere for the completly arrogant and childish nonsense that it was - probably why she wears a disguise nowadys when she goes out...

    Another awfully biased piece by the nation.

    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    "I'm pretty sure that on the red side, people were also taking care of each other. I think it's a very Thai thing.
    Indeed...

  15. #15
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    you sound jealous, as usual, hooligan fan ?

    I think she was saying a lot of things that "educated" Thai and farangs could understand,

    except the usual redtards and "dodgy" farangs of course

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    She attended April's rally of "multicolour shirts" on Silom Road, getting video for her Facebook page. When M79 grenades exploded there the next day, her parents found out she'd been to the rally and forbade her from attending any more, even taking her car away.
    25 and still being controlled by her parents!

    Hilarious.

    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    "I wanted to know what had happened, so I checked all the news websites." It's remained her habit - as well as the The Nation, Bangkok Post, CNN and BBC, she reads the New York Times, Al Jazeera and Reuters
    So she's only started reading news since 2006 (when she was in England).

    Hilarious x2.

    This person has absolutely zero credibility, yet there are people thinking her vapid commentary worthy of praise.

    Hilarious x3.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly View Post
    you sound jealous, as usual, hooligan fan ?

    I think she was saying a lot of things that "educated" Thai and farangs could understand,

    except the usual redtards and "dodgy" farangs of course
    Papillion, I know you're a moron. But, please...

    I am quite well educated myself, as are my Thai colleagues who laugh at this silly girl's comments; indeed they could be said to be the highest educated group of Thais. So, your comment, once again, is off target.

    But, the fact once again that you seem to believe that educated folk (which you usually link to the yellow shirted faction and people like Abhisit) are somehow above moral questioning, 1) doesn't seem very 'French', 2) is just ignorant and 3) doesn't carry any weight among posters who are able to think for themselves (which is nearly everyone).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nostradamus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    She attended April's rally of "multicolour shirts" on Silom Road, getting video for her Facebook page. When M79 grenades exploded there the next day, her parents found out she'd been to the rally and forbade her from attending any more, even taking her car away.
    25 and still being controlled by her parents!

    Hilarious.
    Actually fairly normal for middle class Thai's....you'd be surprised apparently.


    Quote Originally Posted by Nostradamus View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    "I wanted to know what had happened, so I checked all the news websites." It's remained her habit - as well as the The Nation, Bangkok Post, CNN and BBC, she reads the New York Times, Al Jazeera and Reuters
    So she's only started reading news since 2006 (when she was in England).
    I'm just impressed she even reads the news at all, let alone reading foreign news! Do you have any idea how rare this is here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bettyboo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Butterfly View Post
    you sound jealous, as usual, hooligan fan ?

    I think she was saying a lot of things that "educated" Thai and farangs could understand,

    except the usual redtards and "dodgy" farangs of course
    Papillion, I know you're a moron. But, please...

    I am quite well educated myself, as are my Thai colleagues who laugh at this silly girl's comments; indeed they could be said to be the highest educated group of Thais.
    Really? Proof please.

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    ^ come down to central Bkk, let me know when you're coming and we'll have lunch at my workplace. Tomorrow is tricky cause I'm picking up some number plates (at last), but Thursay is a good day if you're free for either an early lunch or a coffee after 3. Friday lunchtime is fine too, or Saturday cause I teach an MA course in the morning (sit in if you want).

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    "But I was hearing both sides calling for democracy, for justice, and I thought, 'They're asking for the same thing, so why are they on different sides?' That was a very sad moment for me."
    Because neither side has the faintest idea of what democracy is or the responsibility that goes with it.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Marmite the Dog View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by StrontiumDog
    "But I was hearing both sides calling for democracy, for justice, and I thought, 'They're asking for the same thing, so why are they on different sides?' That was a very sad moment for me."
    Because neither side has the faintest idea of what democracy is or the responsibility that goes with it.
    Of course they do.

    Democracy means your side winning. If your side isn't in power, then it isn't democracy.

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