Sunday, 30 September 2012

A celebration of the life of Thai political prisoner Ah Kong Pt. 2

This is part two of the English translation of the funeral book of Thai political prisoner Amphon Tangnoppakul (aka Ah Kong), who died in a Bangkok prison hospital May 8th 2012. Part one can be found here

This funeral book was produced by Ah Kong's wife, Rosmalin (aka Pa Ou), and it is with her kind permission it's reproduced here as a tribute to his life.

"I am almost two years younger than Ah Po. My mother told me I was born 28 February 1952, but on the registration it says 1951. Only the year is recorded, too, but mother said she could remember because I was her first child. Nevermind, though, it doesn’t matter what year it was. A birthday is not as important as a death day. When I will die--that’s what I don’t know.

I was born in Bangkok, and lived at the Air Defense Artillery Batallion at Kiak Kai Intersection{1} from when I was a child. My father was a soldier. When I was first old enough to remember anything my father was still a Corporal, then a Sergeant, and then a Master Sergeant, and on from there until he passed away at the rank of Lieutenant. My mother was a typical housewife.

Pa Ou

My family had many hardships and many kids--eight or nine, because my mother never used birth control. I was the oldest and had to care for my younger siblings. I carried a baby on my hip with me wherever I went. We had no television at home in those days. If I wanted to watch it I had to go to a store, and I had to bring a baby with me on my hip. The baby would start to cry, people would start to stare, and I had to rush right out again.

There was a period where I sold coconut cakes{2} with my next oldest sister. I was around ten or eleven, and she was around nine. We would wake up at 4 a.m., walk from Kiak Kai to pick up the coconut cakes at Bang Krabue{1}. My father’s younger sister was the one who made them. We sold them to earn money to help out the family. Every morning we hauled them back home, each carrying a basket on our side, and using our free hands to carry a third basket between us. My sister wore short skirts--sometimes she would get so focused on carrying the baskets she would lose her skirt along the way home!

By the time we walked back it would be 6 or 7 a.m., and 8 or 9 a.m. by the time we had sold all the cakes. Older folks will remember this.

We were always struggling in those days. My mother earned money washing and ironing soldiers’ uniforms. In those days the uniforms had to be starched totally stiff--you could practically stand them up!

My family moved to Chonburi I was about fifteen. At first we rented a house. My father hadn’t moved there to be with us yet. My father was not stationed at the Batallion very often. He was never in one place very long, because he had to follow his commanding officers around. Sometimes the whole family moved around with him.

We had to move often, but the reason we moved to Chonburi was because my mother was from there. We had been there about two years when we moved to a military base, but I stayed behind there in our rented house for a while longer, and moved later.

After that my father and mother split up. My father went to live with his new wife. My mother also moved, but she didn’t have a new husband. My mother went to work as a cook in factories. It became my duty to care for the family, with all my younger brothers and sisters and my grandmother, too. My brothers and sisters were afraid of me. You might say they both feared and respected me. But there was still some skipping of school and that sort of thing!

At the house we had a large wardrobe. One time when I was yelling at the kids to go to school, I noticed everyone had disappeared. I thought, “Huh, why did everyone leave for school so early today?” Then when I went to open the wardrobe, it turned out they were squeezed into every corner of the thing, top and bottom. They used to call me the cleaner--they would see me and say, “Here comes the cleaner!” before hurrying off to school.

With so many brothers and sisters, as the eldest I had to help the family. I only completed fourth grade, even though as the daughter of a soldier I could’ve gone to school. But I didn’t get to go to school because I had to care for my siblings.

When I was sixteen, going on seventeen, I went to work in a lumber mill.

I worked at the lumber mill for only a year, and then I got married."

Translator’s notes
{1} Kiak Kai and Bang Krabue are intersections on Sam Sen Road in Bangkok, on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River.
{2} A confectionary made with flour and coconut cream, steamed in small cups (ขนมถวย).

Friday, 28 September 2012

Bangkok's foreign media corps: it's time for accountability

In the UK a very interesting debate is developing regarding the BBC's useless reporting of the wholesale changes the present government are making to the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Suffice to say the BBC is getting a pretty rough ride from a lot of critics. Out in front is the Open Democracy organisation who have produced a withering and damning critique of BBC reporting on NHS changes entitled “How the BBC betrayed the NHS: an exclusive report on two years of censorship and distortion.”

As the title suggests Open Democracy accuse the BBC of omitting key facts, distorting the debate, not allowing alternative views adequate space and of outright censorship. They also accuse the BBC of being too close to the government and of acting in an almost collusive fashion with private medical companies set to benefit from the end of the NHS.

Open Democracy write

There are a number of theories on why the BBC consistently refused to explain the NHS reforms in adequate terms or detail. For instance, a number of senior BBC staff have links with the healthcare industry. As Media Lens note, Dr Mike Lynch OBE, a member of the BBC’s executive board, has links to a number of firms in the health sector, including Apax Partners, “one of the leading global investors in the Healthcare sector”. BBC Chairman, Lord Patten, is on the board of Bridgepoint, a private equity firm with substantial healthcare interests

For me the BBC’s handling of NHS reforms mirror some of the failures of Bangkok’s international media corps. Omission, self-censorship, a failure to take into account alternative viewpoints and analysis and a familiarity with only one position that appears like a collusion and damages claims to neutrality.

We are very tough on our media in the UK if they fail to report accurately. Journalists and the media are not untouchable and absolutely must be criticised. The collective whinging from the foreign media in Bangkok when they are scrutinised is revealing of the “amaart-style” mindset that appears to have developed among them. They have cultural and social power and should be held to account. It's a healthy and democratic thing to do. 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bangkok's foreign media and the re-distribution of the Bangkok Post's lies

UPDATE: Zoe Daniel has accused me of committing defamation with this blog post and is threatening to sue me. Just to be clear I am not accusing Ms. Daniel of lying, nor suggesting she has lied in her reports. I can see why she might think the orginal title of my blog may convey that so have amended it, accordingly.  I stand by assertion that members of Bangkok's foreign media corps have almost certainly lied and continue to do so in regards to the cover-up that is being perpetuated for the Bangkok Massacre in 2010. I also don't know why Zoe can't just answer my question and, instead, reverts to false accusations of rudeness and an hysterical over-reaction with threats to sue. Would it be reasonable to ask Ms.Daniel if she has something to hide?

Had a very revealing twitter exchange with ABC’s (Australian Broadcast Company) Bangkok correspondent Zoe Daniels aka @seacorro this morning (see below).

To be fair Zoe is not the worst of Bangkok’s toadying international media corps but, like most of them, does seem to overly rely on obvious Yellow-tinged English language sources such as the Bangkok Post and seems a bit in hock to those charming Democrat Party people who lunch at the FCCT. (What's also odd is so few of these long-term foreign correspondents ever quote or translate a Thai newspaper source - they're often more balanced and certainly offer a much broader view than the Post or the Nation -  I'm just a blogger and I can cite Thai news, so why can't the well-paid/resourced international media?)

Yesterday, after violent far-right Yellow Shirt extremists were caught on camera attacking a peaceful gathering of Red Shirts, the Bangkok Post ran a short piece with some photographs. It contained a couple of lines from “reporters” (AKA as liars) who decided, in true Bangkok Post style, to make some stuff up about what had happened there.

 Zoe, usually a reliable source, decided to tweet a link to this Bangkok Post article but failed to point out that the Post is controlled by the Democrat Party and is sympathetic to the Yellow Shirts. Zoe could’ve tweeted links to other sources that offered an alternative view to the Bangkok Post but didn’t. 
 Given that almost every single Thai language newspaper blamed the Yellow Shirts for starting the violence, something backed up by this video clip which shows a Yellow Shirt guard trying to calm down his own activists as they start the violence, and this report which states that at least one Yellow Shirt was armed with a pistol, it’s my view that Zoe, by only offering the Bangkok Post’s version, was not giving a balanced, truthful or fair representation of what occurred yesterday.

So I decided to ask Zoe directly what happened. My questions were direct and to the point. In the end Zoe, instead of answering any of my questions, accused me of being “uncivil”, “rude” and “antagonistic” and then blocked me. I don’t believe I was any of those things and can only conclude she’d been “caught out” and didn’t have an explanation.

It’s my view that the foreign media in Bangkok still have some very serious questions to answer about how they've portrayed events over the last few years. It’s also my view that many of them have knowingly lied about what happened during the Bangkok Massacre in 2010 and have been unwavering in their support for the Democrat Party and the Thai elites. 

They portray one very obviously partial version of events as neutral and consider any alternative to be biased. They very clearly don’t like being questioned on this and routinely seek to personally denigrate and exclude anyone who dares to criticise them. They stand accused of being complicit with a cover-up of crimes against humanity and the journalists/media who realise this is happening but say nothing are equally as bad. It is a collective failure for which they have collective responsibility. 

I didn't really want to single Zoe out and, as suggested above, don't think she is the worst, but the twitter exchange below is instructive in that it reveals the mindset of your typical Bangkok foreign correspondent. They struggle when it comes to their being questioned on anything.  No wonder Zoe ended up blocking me - I had her in a corner and it was obvious flight was better than answering me.

"Me to @seacorro am curious if you consider the Bangkok Post a reliable news source.

‪Zoe to @andrewspoooner I'm skeptical of most sources except my own eyes

‪ Me to @seacorro So the jury system should be trashed and investigations are pointless then? I mean they don't witness anything firsthand.

Me to @seacorro Once again > Are the BKK Post a reliable source? I would say v obviously not. Does ur skepticism stop with them?

Zoe to @andrewspoooner Andrew. don't pick a fight with me for no reason, thanks.

Me to @seacorro A direct question is not a fight unless you feel defensive. You cite BKK Post as a source. Surely you must think they are credible

Zoe to @andrewspooner No, I linked to photographs on the Post website, those who read the article can make their own decisions. Goodbye

Me to @seacorro That wasn't just photographs but a report as well. The BKK Post are not "neutral" in anyway and shouldn't be portrayed as such

Me to @seacorro I get this sense that BKK international media corps really don't like be questioned. They get overly defensive. Can't think why.

Me to @seacorro And, as I said, why are you guys so defensive and evasive when asked difficult questions? You have a responsibility.

Zoe to @andrewspoooner Because you are rude and antagonistic. Unnecessary for civil discussion."

Anyone can follow my lively twitter discussions here at @andrewspoooner