By Saksith Saiyasombut
“Tongue-Thai’ed!” encapsulates the most baffling, amusing, confusing, outrageous and appalling quotes from Thai politicians and other public figures – in short: everything we hear that makes us go “Huh?!”. Check out all past entries here.
We all know the special role the Thai military plays in the country’s politics and also the apparent entitlement with which they are participating in the system:
Thailand continues to allow professional officers to take on explicitly political roles, both before and after retirement. Part of the attraction is certainly financial, but the trend is also born of a culture that sees no problem with army involvement in national politics.
Third, civil society and the media are not currently forcing the army into ever-greater professionalisation, since the latter is adept at hiding its political activities; it has seemingly mastered the dark arts of public-relations spin.
“Thailand’s soldiers of political fortune“, by Desmond Ball and Nicholas Farrelly, East Asia Forum, January 7, 2012
However, we also all know the army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s blunt outspokenness and more than often unfortunate handling of the media. So, with the still on-going debate about a potential pardon for Thaksin, the press went to somebody who’s apparently most suited to say something on this matter.
The outcome is not surprising, as an audio clip titled “Army chief fumes!! Press bombards him with questions on [Thaksin] pardon” reveals:
Prayuth: “Who’s petitioning for a pardon [for Thaksin]? The military?”
Reporter: “Pheu Thai does it!”
Prayuth: “Then leave it to them!”
Reporter: “But the Democrat Party is against this…!”
Prayuth: “That’s the Democrat Party – who the hell do you think I am?! A political party, the Thailand Party?! If you want everyone to accept it, then [you must have] reconciliation! If not, you have to keep doing it. If that fails, then the whole country will kill each other! Do you want this to happen?!”
Reporter: “There are efforts to reinvestigate [Thaksin’s] cases…!”
Prayuth: “So what? Then they should do that – that has nothing to do with me! Why are you asking me?! The military has nothing to do with it! It’s YOU who’s asking too much! You’re asking me about everything. You’re asking me too many questions, so you might think that I have much power! Why are you asking me that? It’s got nothing to do with me! But I still answer it! I’m still being considerate to you, I still answer to you – otherwise you won’t have any news to write and then you blame me for it! Then I give an answer, people will say I have [too] much power! We don’t! The army is under the constitution, the army is under the rule of the ministry of defense, under the control of the government. The army chief does not have any powers – not at all!”
Audio: “14/03/55 ผบ.ทบ.ฉุน!! ถูกสื่อซักนิรโทษฯ“, Manager Radio, March 14, 2012 – translation by me
As usual, the army chief shows once again that he is in desperate need of media training and even the most hotheaded football manager is more confident at giving interviews than Prayuth. First he reacts very snootily to the reporter’s questions and then digs himself a deeper hole with every sentence – whilst giving a glimpse into his black-and-white perception. And his insistence that he and the armed forces do not have any powers – well, there’s no need to explain much (see above).
On the other hand (and I can’t believe I’m saying this): Prayuth has a point! Bear with me here – Prayuth’s complaint that the press is apparently asking him about nearly anything, regardless if he has anything to do with the issue, showcases some problems with the Thai press (see above) and the need to collect soundbites even just for the sake of it.
Prayuth (and his ego) traps himself with the belief that somebody of his rank needs to say something in order to show authority – even if he has no clue whatsoever. That leaves us with a chicken-or-egg situation in which the Thai press corps should ask the right questions to the right people and in which the army chief should consider – well, nearly everything!
If you come across any verbosities that you think might fit in here send us a email at siamvoices [at] gmail.com or tweet us @siamvoices.