The Thaksin interview with The TimesBy Bangkok Pundit Nov 10, 2009 6:00AM UTC
Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was hoping mad and quickly released a statement criticising the headline and the lead. He stated:
1. I never gave an interview with the content “calls for ‘shining’ new age after King’s death”. This headline is the action of Times Online. It is false. I never gave an interview like that.
2. I never gave an interview with the statement “called for reform of the country’s revered monarchy and spoken of a “shining” new age after the era of the ailing King, Bhumibol Adulyadej”. This writing is the acts of Times Online. It is a distortion. I have never given an interview like that.
3. I have never given an interview which were offensive to the monarchy in any way. On the contrary, in the interview, I defended the institution of monarchy as being above politics and said the Thai people adore the institution.
4. I gave an interview extolling the honour and intelligence of the Crown Prince
I am upset on the way Times Online presents the news this time. I spoke to the interviewer and told him that the institution was a very sensitive matter and that it was necessary to report directly what I said. I condemn Times Online for publishing this false and confusing article.I would like to repeat again that my family and I are loyal to His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen and like all Thais are ready to sacrifice our lives to protect the monarchy
The part of the interview where Thaksin refers to the Crown Prince shining is:
But after he becomes the King I’m confident he can be shining to perform Kingship, because he has observed His Majesty, his father, for many years. He learns a lot from His Majesty. It’s not his time yet. But when the time comes I think he will be able to perform.
BP: Not sure there is too much wrong with this.
Then on the talk of reform, Thaksin states:
[Q] So the monarchy is a good thing but the royal institution needs reform – is that right?
[A] Yes, yes.
[Q] What kind of reform?
[A] The constitutional monarchy must be strictly abided by. All the institutions must function according to the rule of law and the political rules, but sometimes they’ve been influenced. The justice system can be intervened in by the palace circle.
BP: The above section is what has led to varied translations in the Thai media and has been made a focus – see Matichon.Thaksin seems to be worried that “reform of monarchy” will be equated with “overthrow the monarchy”, but from the transcript you can’t draw that conclusion. The differences from what Thaksin said are not that great. It is not a distortion, but a small change of words can change the meaning slightly which is part of the problem.
When Abhisit came to power there was talk of providing clear guidelines about lese majeste cases as the Foreign Ministry stated just a few weeks ago:
To ensure its proper enforcement, the government is also in the process of providing clearer guidelines on its application. As it is though, the law is not aimed at curbing freedom of speech and expression nor the legitimate exercise of academic freedom including the debates about the monarchy as an institution. Amidst the on-going intense political differences, apparent attempts to politicize the monarchy for political ends seem to have unduly gained momentum. Those who follow developments in the country are therefore asked to be more careful in differentiating facts from rumors.
BP: So talk of reform although still keeping a constitutional monarchy is not okay? Bangkok Governor’s interview with Der Spiegel though has not attracted the same attention although one could say it was equally controversial in parts with talk of HM’s role in politics.
Thaksin’s problem in the interview seems related to his comments about the Crown Prince although as AP notes he offered praise for the Crown Prince throughout:
In the Times interview, which included a transcript posted online, the former prime minister was laudatory about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, whom he described as “the newer generation, modern.”
“He has a very strong determination to do what he really wants to achieve,” said Thaksin.
BP: Actually, it was this open support for the Crown Prince that BP found more interesting…
On the political fallout, these things are hard to judge. One can’t poll, but as The Nation notes:
The Times Online report was circulated like wildfire on the Web, prompting fiery criticism and catching the Pheu Thai Party off guard.
BP: Translations have also popped up online. The article has gone viral. Many will find it inappropriate that there is any talk of the institution, but am not so sure this interview is that damaging politically given discussions over such issues are much more widespread nowdays although this will depend on how accurate translations that spread are. There is an immediate effect of unease of what Thaksin said, but once translations circulate up-country am not so sure that many will be that offended.
Democrat reaction has been typical ranging from Abhisit being relatively calm to his spokesman Thepthai stating that punishment for stating such things is beheading for 7 generations (โฆษกมาร์ค ชี้ แม้ว สุดชั่วจาบจ้วงเบื้องสูงรุนแรงต้องประหาร 7 ชั่วโคตร).