Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pravit Rojanaphruk Peddles "Class War"

Bangkok English paper The Nation's Pravit peddles dangerous pro-Thaksin "class war" 

December 11, 2013 (Tony Cartalucic) - Pravit Rojanaphruk of Bangkok's English newspaper "The Nation," penned a particularly revolting article titled, "A letter to the well-heeled protesters of Bangkok," where he accuses the masses that have turned out all across the country (at least 400-500k in Bangkok, 50,000 in Phuket, 8,000 in Chumphon, 10,000 in Trang, 30,000 in Surat Thani, 5,000 in Pattani, 1,500 in Korat (part of Thaksin's northeast stronghold), and even a handful of brave protesters at the very heart of the regime's support in Udon Thani where they were met by Thaksin's club wielding red shirted thugs) to be nothing more than elitist snobs, "snapping their fingers" to have their bidding done.

Image: Pravit's dangerous attempts to stoke "class war" between regime supporters and what he calls "elites" which apparently include working and middle class, is designed to further galvanize what is left of Thaksin Shinawatra's support base, a tactic his paid propagandists on Asia Update, Thaksin's own TV station, regularly employ.  

Pravit apparently hasn't been out to the protests then, and if he has, he is being intentionally deceitful. The vast majority of the protesters are hardworking people - the people that make this country function. Everyone from taxi drivers and maids, to students, labor unions, doctors, and engineers, to small business owners (coffee and noodle stands); from the "just educated" to the "highly educated" and everything in between. The protests are not simply rice farmers drawn from a single corner of the country where the regime has squatted on the people, keeping them intentionally dependent on their political machine in return for votes - but represent the entire country, from north to south and all the lies between, including farmers.  

Worst of all for Pravit, is that on the very day he published his inappropriate, divisive op-ed, even the people he claims stand opposed to the nose-thumbing Bangkok "elite," the northeast's rice farmers, are now preparing to blockade roads in revolt against the current regime who has, since October, failed to make good on their impossible, irresponsible, unsustainable rice buying scheme. Already bankrupt many times over, the government will have to slit the nation's financial wrists to keep a promise they should never have made in the first place (but was the only way they could win in elections). 

Contrary to Pravit's divisive propaganda, the "Bangkokian snobs" will gladly welcome these farmers into their ranks. It was never about the rural people, it was about what Thaksin had turned many of them into - a battering ram to knock down the walls of people's livelihoods and loot it for the Shinawatra regime's profits and power. Many sons and daughters of the northeast have come to Bangkok seeking a better life, out from under the noxious cloud of the Shinawatra political machine. Many of them were marching on December 9, 2013. And many more are now realizing the utopia promised during the 2011 elections was lip service to garner votes. 

Pravit is desperate to portray the protesters as "elitists" so that he and the regime he openly supports can continue on with their "class war" paradigm. It would be ideal to keep a divide between Bangkok and Thaksin's dying political machine, preventing people from escaping out from under it. Nothing gets people to circle the wagons better than good old fashioned "class war." 

Pravit's "Class Divide" is a Myth 

However, in reality, the neat divide Pravit, Thaksin Shinawatra, and his political machine try to impose upon Thailand is a dangerous, insidious myth groping in the dark, searching for chaos. Even in 2010, long before Thaksin's political machine fell from popularity, an Asian Foundation report titled, "Survey Findings Challenge Notion of a Divided Thailand," summarized the myth Pravit is attempting to perpetuate:
Since Thailand’s color politics began pitting the People’s Alliance for Democracy’s (PAD) “Yellow-Shirt” movement against the National United Front of Democracy Against Dictatorship’s (UDD) “Red-Shirt” movement, political watchers have insisted that the Thai people are bitterly divided in their loyalties to rival political factions.
The survey, conducted over the course of late 2010 and involving 1,500 individuals, shattered that myth revealing a meager 14% of Thailand's population identify themselves as being "red," and of that 14%, only 7% identify themselves as "strongly red."

The survey reveals that by far, most Thais constitute what is called the "silent majority." The survey included multiple questions that revealed the leanings of this silent majority. An overwhelming majority of them believed, for instance, the military was an important, independent institution that has helped safeguard and stabilize the country. It was also found that Thais overwhelmingly believed they had much more that united them, than divided them - and of course, central to that - would be Thailand's ancient institutions Pravit is so found of trying to undermine. 

Pravit Trivializes Real Grievances 

But perhaps most insulting of all was Pravit's attempts to trivialize people's hatred of the Shinawatra regime. He stated in his op-ed: 
I know you see Thaksin and his sister as bad, corrupt, abusive, blah, blah, blah. And to a certain extent I agree: the siblings can be arrogant, abusive and unrepentant. Look at the way they tried to sneak a blanket-amnesty bill through Parliament at 4am that would have absolved Thaksin but trampled justice for the families of who died in protests. It took some nerve.

If that's honestly what Pravit believes is an accurate summation of the people's grievances with the Shinawatra regime, he really must not have left his desk. Thaksin Shinawatra in 2003 mass murdered some 3,000 people over the course of just 90 days in what he called ''a war on drugs."

Accused of being "drug dealers," victims were systematically exterminated based on "hit lists" compiled by police given carte blanche by Thaksin. It would later be determined by official investigations that over half of those killed had nothing to do with the drug trade in any way. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, "Thailand’s 'war on drugs'," a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, "Not Enough Graves."  

Image: "The Thai Gov'ts War on Drugs: Dead Wrong. Stop the Murder of Thai Drug Users." During Thaksin Shinwatra's 2003 "War on Drugs" it wasn't only drug users who were brutally, extra-judicially murdered in the streets, but over 50% of the 2,800 killed during the course of 3 months, were completely innocent, involved in no way with either drug use or trade.


Thaksin pursued this campaign because it was wildly popular among his constituency - apparently unaware or unconcerned with concepts such as having a trial or being pronounced innocent until proven guilty - a constituency Pravit believes the rest of the country should just shut up, sit down, and remain hostages to.  

While Pravit claims to be a champion of freedom of speech, in particular, in opposition to the nation's Lese Majeste laws, he seems perfectly comfortable with a regime that enforces "Lese Thaksin."

Indeed, Thaksin crushed dissent while in office, particularly across the media. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) wrote in its report, "Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand," that (emphasis added):
Populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's press freedom record has been less than stellar since he took office in 2001. His political and financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion continued to have a chilling effect on critical voices in the Thai press in 2004.

Critics accuse Thaksin and his administration of creeping authoritarianism, cronyism, and blurring the lines between business interests and politics. Local journalists told CPJ they routinely receive phone calls from government officials trying to influence editorials and reporting. They said Thaksin's powerful government and his allies often threaten to withdraw advertising from publications in retaliation for negative articles. As a result, local journalists said, self-censorship has increased dramatically during the last four years.
The decision of executives at the Bangkok Post to remove Veera Prateepchaikul, editor of the influential English-language daily, is a direct example of such interference, local sources said.His reassignment in February stunned and outraged the local press and was a major blow to the Bangkok Post staff, which sent a letter of protest to management. Veera, who goes by his first name, is also president of Thailand's journalists' union, the Thai Journalists Association.
Veera Prateepchaikul continues to this day to speak out against the Shinawatra regime with his recent, and very cogent critique of the current regime headed by Thaksin's nepotist-appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, titled, "Yingluck can't duck responsibility for protest fatalities." In it, he calls on the regime's proxy, Yingluck, to step down after violence triggered by regime militants claimed the lives of now 5 people.

The Straight Times reported in its article, "Press freedom 'eroded under Thaksin'," that: 

The ruling party and its allies and supporters now control a significant chunk of Thailand's television and radio media, either directly or indirectly, say analysts.
The article describes how members of Thaksin's regime were systematically buying out media interests even while holding office. This obvious conflict of interest was compounded by suits the regime brought against news editors for "libel" - merely censorship by lawsuit. 

Already, the regime since taking office, has renewed fears that another "Lese Thaksin" campaign may be underway. Thaksin's underlings, have also indicated interests in not only reigniting the "war on drugs" but in expanding it. Imagine if the nation really did heed Pravit's final bits of advice and only employed "legitimate democratic means in opposing Thaksin and Yingluck" - means such as elections he will always win - and there was no impending threat hovering over the head of his political machine... Imagine just how quickly we would have lapsed back into the despotism, unprecedented human rights violations, and human exploitation that were the true hallmarks of his time in office.   

What Pravit attempts to portray as "elite vs. peasant" just as Thaksin Shinawatra does, is in fact a conglomeration of people from all across Thai society who are intelligent enough to recognize festering despotism in their midst and the necessity to remove it like the caner it is. When the regime attempts to divide the people against one another to prolong its grip on power, it only further illustrates just why it needs to go. 

The Genesis of Pravit's Dangerously Divisive Vitriol 

Pravit Rojanaphruk boasts openly of his foreign British Chevening Scholarship 2001-2002, his Reuters Fellowship 97-98, Katherine Fanning Fellowship 2009, and Salzburg Seminar Fellowship. For the naive, they might be led to believe then, that Pravit should be a professional, objective, and transparent journalist - a credit to the profession. But they would be wrong. Pravit is none of these, and much worse. 

Image: Pravit's Twitter account proudly displays the Western scholarships and fellowships he has taken part in. One must wonder what he truly learned throughout all these experiences - transparency and objectivity? Or the finer points of propaganda? 

He is openly biased in favor of Thaksin Shianwata, his proxy regime run in perfect banana republic-form by his own sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, and of course, defends vehemently Thaksin's "red shirt" street mobs and its academic auxiliaries of Nitiarat. Pravit is a smart man, if nothing else, so it is almost certain he has switched on Asia Update and watched the programming Thaksin feeds his flocks of red shirts daily across the country. He surely notes the condescending, almost childlike messages and vitriol peddled over the airwaves to an audience the producers at Asia Update must take as absolutely uneducated and weak-minded. Yet he seems perfectly comfortable with a regime that would intentionally prey on its own people in such a manner. 

He is also an open collaborator with the pro-regime online news website, Prachatai. Being a smart man, surely Pravit knew the website's meager readership and whatever even smaller donations were coming in, were not keeping the lights on, the office staffed, and the computers on the desk. Surely he knew where they were getting their money from, and surely with all his fellowships and scholarships he knew it was information Prachatai should have first and foremost made sure was posted somewhere on their site. Yet he didn't.

It took months of intense pressure on Prachatai to get them to admit who their sponsors were and to get the information posted somewhere on their website. The fact that the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funds Prachatai, and that upon NED's Freedom House board of trustees sits Kenneth Adelman, literally a paid-lobbyist for Thaksin Shinawatra, is at the very least an unacceptable conflict of interest, but most likely also a very real source of immense impropriety - impropriety Pravit, who claims to have associated with Prachatai for years, must surely at least know about. Are we to believe it is just a coincidence that he writes pro-regime op-eds, considering his association with Practhai, and Prachatai's funding coming from people directly supporting Thaksin Shinawatra? 

There is more to Pravit's support of this regime, his almost daily hypocrisy, and his continuous attempts to sow division amongst his own countrymen. The trail of slime seems to lead through Prachatai, Nitirat, and back to Thaksin Shianwatra's UDD "red shirts." It would be nice for Pravit to at least be honest enough to shed the journalist facade, don a red shirt, and move over to Asia Update where he belongs - as despicable as working for the regime's exploitative, manipulative propaganda machine would be, for Pravit it may be the closest he ever comes to doing something respectable.