Panitan, the Bangkok Post, Montenegro, Thaksin, and visasBy Bangkok Pundit Sep 11, 2013 3:00PM UTC
As blogged last month noticing this trend of quoting Panitan without revealing his previous political role:
Panitan, a lecturer of political science at Chula making a political comment? The same Panitan who was the Abhisit government spokesperson (who assured us on May 17, 2010 that troops were “not using weapons to crack down on civilians” and were only targeting armed “terrorists”), was also deputy secretary-general of political affairs for Abhisit, and acted as a special envoy to Washington on behalf of Abhisit’s government? Isn’t his former position also relevant? Perhaps, in 5-10 years time it would be less of an issue, but it was only two years ago he was speaking on behalf of the Abhisit government to the press. It seems way too soon to ask him for a comment about political matters and to not mention his former role.
Everyone has their biases and opinions, but Panitan had a directly political role in his previous roles under Abhisit. He fronted the press to put forward the Abhisit government position, went to Washington to put forward the Abhisit government to the US press and others etc, and who is being interviewed by the DSI about his role in the 2010 crackdown.
Today, the Bangkok Post:
An academic has questioned whether the government’s visa waiver for Montenegrin diplomats and office holders is a reward for the country granting former premier Thaksin Shinawatra a passport.…
Chulalongkorn University international relations lecturer Panitan Wattanayagorn spoke after a cabinet meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongphaisan approving the Montenegrin visa waiver.
She will meet Montenegrin president Filip Vujanovic on Saturday and return to Thailand on Sunday.
Mr Panitan said he did not know why the Foreign Ministry had decided to grant Montenegrin diplomats and government officials visa-free entry, as the two countries do not have a special relationship.
The two countries have had normal diplomatic relations since 2007.
“As far as I know, visa-free entry is only available to citizens of countries with a special relationship with Thailand,” Mr Panitan said. “I have never heard of Montenegro having such a relationship with Thailand before.
“Granting Montenegro’s diplomats and office holders visa-free entry into Thailand looks a lot like a political act of gratitude towards the government of Montenegro for granting Thaksin a passport.”
Government deputy spokesman Pakdiharn Himathongkham said the waiver agreement would allow Montenegrin diplomats and state officials to enter Thailand and stay for up to 90 days without a visa.
Ms Yingluck and Mr Vujanovic are expected on Saturday to agree on the same deal for Thai counterparts travelling to Montenegro.
“There was nothing untoward in Montenegro approving a passport and special citizen status for Thaksin,” Mr Pakdiharn said.
BP: First, are people at the Bangkok Post unaware who Panitan is? If he is offering a general academic comment on international relations, on say US policy in the Middle East, it may not be relevant to mention his former role in the Abhisit government, but he is offering political commentary on the government. How can the Bangkok Post not mention this?
Second, on the factual accuracy, when Panitan says “As far as I know, visa-free entry is only available to citizens of countries with a special relationship with Thailand,” perhaps, he would helped himself if he spent 5 minutes on Google and/or checked the Foreign Ministry website:
Source: Thai MFA
BP: Does Thaksin have special relationship with Nepal, Mexico, Panama, Peru, Uruguay, Ukraine etc? No.
Third, on the perception of the agreement, when Panitan states “Granting Montenegro’s diplomats and office holders visa-free entry into Thailand looks a lot like a political act of gratitude towards the government of Montenegro for granting Thaksin a passport” – on this issue, BP views Panitan is spot-on. In fact, Yingluck visiting Montenegro was a bad idea. The government agreeing to the Bilateral Agreement just compounds it. Yingluck is already under pressure for – a topic for a separate post – her frequent visits abroad so of all the places to visit none are probably worse than Montenegro.*
NOTE: To be clear, when you are asked to provide a quote for a newspaper, you are often asked what label you want to be used, but you don’t have control over the newspaper using that label. Hence, without further information, it would be unfair to blame Panitan.
*Obviously, Dubai is another place, but at least one can argue that Dubai is more relevant economically to Thailand than Montenegro…