Thursday 5 December 2013

Gone Missing – the failures of Western media reporting of the 2013 Thai Crisis

As some of my readers know I’ve long been critical of the Western media’s reporting of the ongoing Thai political crisis. Yesterday I blogged a piece outlining some of the Doublespeak terms usually produced by Abhisit Vejjajiva and the other elements of the “Democrat” Party-led anti-democracy movement. It’s my view that the Western media use some of these terms without investigation, analysis or critique thereby presenting and distributing a codified form of language that gravitates towards a Democrat Party-led narrative on some of the key issues affecting Thailand’s political crisis.

This post is an attempt to further unpack some of the other assumed “neutral” positions of the Western media and also some of the events and news items editorialised out by the journalists and reporters working for the Western media in Bangkok.

As this is just a first draft and I’m quite busy I’ll be adding in weblinks later on that relate to each matter listed here. I should also add that if people have sources that contradict my comments please let me know.

This is about Thaksin versus the Bangkok elites.

Such an oversimplified analysis that fails to take into account decades of political struggle, a pro-democracy movement stretching back to the 1930s and its subsequent brutal suppression supported, almost without equivocation, by the USA and other foreign governments. Thaksin’s rise is a very recent phenomena yet the ever-present are the Bangkok elites/networks and their allies in the Thai Army. This simplistic analysis also avoids recognising and evaluating the agency of ordinary Thai people.

This is just about anti-government protesters versus pro-government supporters.

I find this analysis not only simplistic but an insidious use of language that is encoded with a subtext of “resistance” to authority that is not really present in this instance. The better description would be, in my view, anti-democracy agitators or rioters versus pro-democracy activists. Whilst the Red Shirts – the group clumsily termed “pro-government” by the Western media – are broadly supportive of the democratically elected Pheu Thai government and Thaksin Shinawatra that support is very clearly conditional. For example the amnesty bill that supposedly sparked the recent Democrat Party-led riots was widely attacked and derided by the Red Shirts including many of their leading figures.

As far as I’m aware not one single Western media source has given this any attention. It’s hard to fathom out why this isn’t newsworthy as it has been widely covered in the Thai language media and confirmed by the school itself. Very poor.

The disappearance of Thai fascist leader Suthep Thagsuban’s past.

Some reports, most notably by the Guardian’s Kate Hodal, appeared to conveniently forget that Suthep has been implicated in several corruption scandals, was disbarred from being an MP and has been charged with the murder of unarmed pro-democracy Red Shirt protesters in 2010. I found it simply astonishing that Hodal wasn’t able to avail herself of the most rudimentary facts regarding Suthep’s past and it appeared that the omission of these prominent facts was an effort to mislead the Guardian’s readership.

Almost complete failure to report very violent night-timeattack on 2nd December by Democrat Party supporters and Thai Blackshirts on Government House.

Our monitoring on that evening seemed to suggest there was not ONE Western journalist during this night-time attack which was possibly the most violent riot instigated by the Democrat Party Blackshirts since the protest began. [After receiving an email from Swedish journalist, Michael Topffer, it transpires he was there during these riots but he also appears to confirm that no other major international media outlet had a presence there - see Addendum below.] Also our monitoring revealed that there was a strong likelihood that Democrat Party activists were on the ground organising the riots. A complete failure by the Western media on this occasion.

That of the 5 reported deaths so far 4 are at the hands of the Democrat’s violent and fascistic Blackshirts and include 3 pro-democracy activists and one completely innocent 17year old burned to death in a bus.

The lack of reporting of this seems wilful and deliberately misleading. It’s simply astonishing the Western media have failed to report this adequately.

In the run up to the riots over the weekend of the 30th November/1st December  there were a number of well-documented and very violent attacks on single pro-democracy Red Shirt activists by gangs of Democrat Party Blackshirts.

We monitored the reports being put out by the Western media up to the weekend of the 30th November/1st December and could find no reference to ANY of the attacks by gangs of Democrat Party Blackshirts on pro-democracy activists despite there being more than enough evidence to warrant an investigation by journalists and reporters. These attacks included stabbings, beatings and very sinister cases of vigilantism where Democrat Party fanatics intimidated and threatened ordinary Red Shirts making them strip their clothing off and swear allegiance to certain persons. This is all missing from Western media reports.

The “students” attacking the pro-democracy activists were clearly infiltrated and mobilised by Democrat Party Blackshirt thugs with many of the “students” openly aligning themselves with the Blackshirts.
There was an attempt to portray the “students” as some de-politicised force inadvertently caught up in the protest. That was and is a complete fabrication. 


I received this email from Michael Topffer, a Bangkok-based Swedish reporter. I thought it was important to add his comments. I'll happily add any other response from any other Western journalist is they email me at

Hi, I saw your blogpost about failures of Western Media on Thai crisis
If you include Sweden in your view of the Western media I can say this:
Regarding the night of Dec 2nd, I was there, covering this for my paper Expressen. As far as I know, I was the only Western reporter there. BBC was there until around 10pm, I was there until 1am. It was exteremly violent. I gave a live report for our web-tv at 00:30 and had an article about the attack in the next day's paper.
Regarding Suthep's dubious past, I have reported it on many occasions, both for Expressen and for Swedish Public Radio, to which I contribute.
Regarding the whistleblowers at Yingluck's son, there were many conflicting reports as to what had happened, and by the time it was confiremd it was - in my view - already old. Besides, this was just a very small detail. I probably wouldn't have reported it anyway. After all, they were just blowing whistles.
I can't recall ever simplifying the crisis down to claiming that this is about Thaksin vs Elite.
Michael TopfferCorrespondent, ExpressenBangkok

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