Who is this mysterious Panitan Wattanayagorn?
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Who is this mysterious Panitan Wattanayagorn?

Was reading the Bangkok Post the other day (July 30, 2013) and was struck by an article entitled “Panitan urges minister scrutiny”. Key quote:

An international relations expert has called on Thailand to closely monitor the appointment of new cabinet ministers in Cambodia. Panitan Wattanayagorn, a lecturer at Chulalongkorn University’s faculty of political science, said he was certain that Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has ruled Cambodia for 28 years, would announce a cabinet shake-up after his party’s poor showing in Sunday’s election.

Other examples, UPI in November 2012:

“The return to U-Tapao would be very symbolic for the U.S., sending a message to China that it is returning to mainland South-East Asia,” Panitan Wattanayagorn, a military affairs expert at Chulalongkorn University, told the Post.

Such a move would require approval by Thai lawmakers, some of whom are skeptical about the U.S. military being permanently based in Thailand, he said.

New York Times in March 2013:
“The big trouble is to identify those who are in control,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a professor at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok and a specialist on southern Thailand.

WSJ in July 2013:

Government critics, however, said the new commerce minister will have difficulty curbing the program’s losses because its newly pledged price is still higher than the market price. “The new leadership may be able to slow down the losses, but it’s going to be difficult for the government to fix the problem,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political-science professor at Chulalongkorn University.

BP: 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. He is still offering comments defending Abhisit per a quote he gave to the Daily Beast in December 2012:

Abhisit’s Democrat party sees the charges as politically driven, and the PM says he was merely discharging his duty to maintain law and order. “Democrat spokesmen think the evidence linked to Abhisit is not substantiated by any court,” former Abhisit spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn told The Daily Beast.It’s unprecedented to charge two top policymakers, including the former prime minister, like this.” He likened the situation to charging President Obama with crimes in connection with his lawful execution of his role as commander-in-chief.

BP: At least, here is former role is properly mentioned. BP has no issue with Panitan being quoted, but finds it surprising that his former role in the Abhisit government is not mentioned. Before joining the Yingluck government in a similar role to that of Panitan, Suranand Vejjajiva, wrote a column for the Bangkok Post and his byline was “Suranand Vejjajiva served in the Thaksin Shinawatra cabinet and is now a political analyst”. BP heard Suranand speak a few times and saw him quoted, but can never think of a situation where his role under Thaksin was not mentioned. Why the difference?

What does BP think is appropriate? FT in August 2011:

“The foreign minister is trying to create a new understanding that Thaksin is not a criminal,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, the former administration spokesman and now a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University

BP: See that was not difficult… 

NOTE: To be clear, BP is not blaming Panitan for this. People being quoted don’t get to choose what label is given to them…