In the Bangkok Post today, as part of their ‘full-court press’ in support of the coup,* there is an op-ed/letter by William E. Heinecke (chairman & chief executive officer of hotel and restaurant group Minor International) entitled “Western nations, media must not distort the facts”. Some key excerpts:
In the wake of recent political developments in Thailand, I feel compelled to address what I believe to be gross misinterpretations of the current situation in the country by certain Western nations and elements of the international media.
I am distressed by the interpretation of a number of Western governments and the international media of both the coup that recently took place and the situation that led to the coup. Put succinctly, many of you have got it wrong.
A coup d’etat is not a positive event by any means. I do not believe the Thai military considered it to be positive, but rather a necessary step that was taken reluctantly.
I cannot think of one Western country that has in recent memory experienced the social and political gridlock that Thailand suffered for the past six months, resulting in government and political paralysis against a background of increasing violence and needless loss of life.
As the situation in Thailand escalated, it became painfully clear that there would be no resolution as neither side of the political divide offered any reasonable compromise or demonstrated any inclination to compromise. The military showed great restraint as it stood by watching the situation deteriorate, allowing ample time and opportunity for the politicians to resolve the crisis.
The price for that period was paid for by the Thai people, in blood, stress and economic sacrifice and only when it was clear that there was no other reasonable solution did the Thai military step in.
If the media continues to promote sensationalistic and simplistic viewpoints of the situation in Thailand, they not only do a disservice to the viewing public but also run a very real risk of making themselves irrelevant.
I am hopeful that all parties concerned, the media and foreign missions to Thailand included, can pull together for the greater good of the Thailand that we know and love. I urge the media to exercise its persuasive power with principle and integrity, to promote an honest and clear understanding of the current situation. I urge foreign governments to reassess the severity of their travel warnings and to revise and update prior statements to reflect the reality that Thailand is completely safe for travel.
Heinecke had a different position back on February 23. His op-ed/letter entitled “An open letter to ambassadors in Thailand” published in The Nation stated:
As CEO of one of the largest companies in Thailand and more so as a concerned citizen, I feel it is my duty to speak up on behalf of our 40,000 employees and those whose livelihoods depend directly and indirectly on tourism – one of the vital drivers of the Thai economy.
Minor International and numerous other operators in the tourism sector have, over many years, laid the foundation for what is considered the best tourism infrastructure in Asia and in doing so it provides a livelihood for millions throughout the country.
Although the ongoing demonstrations are limited to certain parts of Bangkok, the rest of the city – and the country – is safe to visit, but the travel warnings and restrictions issued by some foreign governments do not reflect this fact. Tourists have never been a target in the protests and to this end all airports in Thailand remain fully operational and hotels and tourist attractions across the Kingdom continue to welcome guests as usual. The people of Thailand are extremely welcoming of tourists and I am certain that visitors are in far more danger of being harmed in any major European or American city than they are here in Bangkok.
These unnecessarily severe travel advisories are now having a major impact on the livelihoods of Thais across the country.
I ask diplomats based in Thailand who have firsthand experience of the lack of impact of Thailand’s political woes on foreign tourists to push for foreign governments to re-examine the severity of their travel restrictions and to revise their travel advisories to focus only on the very limited pockets of Bangkok that are effected.
BP: In February, the violence was “limited to certain parts of Bangkok” and severe travel advisories were not justified, but in the revisionist history by June the coup was justified because of “increasing violence and needless loss of life” which Thailand had “suffered over the past 6 months”. It should be noted that by the time the letter was published on February 23 about two-thirds of the deaths that occurred during the November 2013-May 2014 “political crisis” had already happened** so it was not as if in the next 3 months things suddenly changed. Perhaps, before accusing others of distorting facts, he should look in the mirror…
h/t to a reader
* Per Andrew Marshall (not Zenjourno; another Marshall) at Reuters:
The Thai military rebooted democracy, brought change, averted civil war: a page of pro-coup Bangkok Post op-eds. pic.twitter.com/8votEgfyC4
— Andrew RC Marshall (@Journotopia) June 11, 2014
**Haven’t given a specific number as the Trat deaths were on February 22 and an op-ed published the next day probably didn’t have time to take those into account….