Media War

exposing media bias in Thailand

further Iran & Thailand comparisons

In earlier post we have already  tried to notice the  ongoing efforts in  Thai MSM and in on-line blogs and forums to compare the current events in Iran and with the  political  problems in Thailand.  today there is a great article on Asia Sentinnel authored by Kh. Pluem (N. Devakula), whoseems to be one of the new generation of Thai intellectuals, a person with shrewd mine and often with quite interesting opinions and analysis on Thai politics and economy.

I suggest to read the whole article, especially because I doubt that anyone else in Thai media any time soon will attempt to provide similar comparative analysis and parallels between Iran and Thailand. and he at very least raises many quite important questions which will provoke thinking among the thoughtful persons who pay attention to what’s really going on in Thailand.

so, here it is, and some quotes :

Is Iran More Democratic Than Thailand?

… the storyline of angry supposedly pro-democracy demonstrators [similarity with PAD?] is now familiar, and in many instances represents a graver threat to democracy than the supposedly authoritarian leaders [similarity with Thaksin?] they are protesting against…

… it is in Thailand, where angry street mobs have for the past three and a half years challenged the legitimacy of successive democratically elected governments, that the structural parallels are starkest with Iran. Former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who notched two thumping election victories and a legally contested third, was criticized by his detractors for establishing a parliamentary dictatorship through his consolidation of power and was toppled in a 2006 coup.

In a true democracy, an elected leader does not lose his legitimacy just because he is opposed by powerful minority forces, nor do those forces have the right to extra-constitutionally remove a democrat leader

The Guardian Council’s veto powers are in some ways analogous to the situation in Thailand. For instance, Thailand’s election commission is essentially appointed by a group of judges. [and what about the Privy Counsil’s  influence and powers?  somehow Pluem doesn’t  mention it !] The presidents of three main courts, two other judges selected by another group of judges, and two elected politicians from the ruling coalition and the opposition make up the Thai commission’s selection committee.

The five-to-two domination by unelected judges, officially appointed by an unelected head of state over those with democratic accountability make for an undemocratic screening process dominated by the conservative legal establishment. Hence the role of judges in Thailand, in some ways, mirrors that of the Guardian Council in Iran.

But Iran’s Guardian Council is not its most undemocratic institution; that role is reserved for Khamenei, who has the power to appoint the heads of the judiciary, state-owned broadcast networks and the armed forces; he also has final say over defense and foreign policy as commander-in-chief. Iran’s Supreme Leader wields powers akin to those of an ancient monarch or modern day dictator. It is Khamenei’s unelected status that is behind the opinion that Iran needs to go through a political revolution to undo the excesses of its 1979 religious revolution. It is thus interesting, from a pro-election perspective, that the top governing structure of Iran’s Islamic theocracy has its democratic aspect – at least in the electoral sense. … in technical terms the Iranian Constitution provides for a checking and balancing mechanism that reflects the country’s religio-cultural traditions within the framework of a modified conservative democracy. Iran’s Assembly of Experts is also in charge of supervising, dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader, and in the event of his death, resignation or dismissal, the body is vested with the power to take steps in the shortest possible time to appoint a new leader… Thus it could be argued that Iran’s leadership transition plan is more democratic than the soft and hard dictatorships and monarchies of Asia and Europe… Where monarchies remain in the world, the semi-authoritarian tendencies are often well-veiled and limited… Iran’s mechanisms for checks and balances, including the crucial role of the Assembly of Experts, demonstrates a more highly evolved democracy, even with Islam integral to its rule and operation…

For as long as Islam remains Iran’s state religion, the role of Ayatollahs will always be respected and influential. Can the same be said for Thailand’s unelected institutions and personages? Some argue that the much-touted national sense of “Thainess” has been promoted by the state-controlled school system, which inculcates students with a pro-establishment bias. But is Thailand’s semi-democratic rule, which is supposedly guided by divinity and arguably managed by nominees, truly cultural or imagined?

That is where the democratic difference between Iran and Thailand lies. The completion of Thailand’s long democratic evolution, dating to the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932, is not inevitable without the support of the majority of the electorate. For politically aware competing street protestors in Thailand, and among astute news consumers, the realization of Thailand’s democratic deficit is there; for most it remains hidden from view, obfuscated by both state-controlled and private media.

The street protests in Iran have shown that Khamenei’s political standing is not unassailable. If he were to abuse his power, including a role in the rigging of election results, the elected Assembly of Experts presumably could exercise its power to remove him. The question for Thailand is whether it has even such minimal democratic checks and balances.

The street protests in Iran have shown that Khamenei’s political standing is not unassailable.  If he were to abuse his power, including a role in the indirect manipulation of the election outcome, the elected Assembly of Experts has the power to remove him. Perhaps Iran does have its democratically elected checks and balances. The events now transpiring in Iran could in the future have particular relevance in Thailand. The significance in the present time could only be imagined through a painful contrasting exercise by the not so proper, nor superficial, thinking mind. The results of such an exercise is something that Thais must come to grip with, whatever the answer may be.

I guess that’s why  Thai Establishment  is making  steady and sonsistent efforts towards that end !

like  the huge “Calm-Peace-Solidarity”  Propaganda campaign all over the country  mentioned by  NM blog:

Signs of the Thai state

… the sign symbolically demonizes the red shirts and other opponents of the government by signalling that any turbulence (ie. khwam mai sangop) – which is by definition a violation of the virtue of “calm” (sangop) – is a disloyal act

It is hardly a coincidence that the slogan on the new billboards is the same as the one printed on the tee-shirts of the so-called “blue-shirts” who opposed red shirt anti-government demonstrators in Pattaya during April, and who shot two red-shirt supporters, killing one, on 11 April.  Blue tee-shirts emblazoned with the slogan were produced and distributed by  Ministry of Interior officials to local people in Pattaya and were also worn by some police from the northeastern provinces, who were mobilized by the Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat (also of Bhumjai Thai and the “Friends of Newin” faction) from his political heartland to confront red-shirt demonstrators at Pattaya…

Popular reactions to this conspicuous billboard in the red-shirt strongholds of the northeast have been negative

Given this reaction, it appears that this Ministry of Interior “campaign” has succeeded only in demonstrating the formal power of the Ministry to command province, district and sub-district government bodies. Of course, that coercive power is significant, and exposes the fiction of decentralization in Thailand

s Iran More Democratic Than Thailand?

BP blog has also  commented on this article:

There have been a few comparisons between Thailand and Iran in recent days (see here, here, and here), but to be honest despite recent censorship efforts in Thailand it is far behind Iran in censoring the political speech of the opposition. One must read through the lines to get some of Nattakorn’s arguments. First, he doesn’t directly make the link, but the more apt direct equivalent of the Guardian Council is the Privy Council.  Second, the authorities just can’t continue the status quo forever as there is a desire for change. If they are not careful the people will take to the streets to demand change.

* There is a Devakul on the Privy Council [see #9   – MR Thepkamol Devakula ] and well there are quite a few reasons why one wouldn’t one to more directly make the link

btw, nice of ASTV Manager-type commenters to show up at Asia Sentinel which their critiques.


June 24, 2009 - Posted by | Anti-establishment, Blue shirts, Propaganda | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. here is an example of local Thai affairs:

    … He said police evidence included photos and tape recordings of the speeches.

    He declined to identify the suspects or say how many would be charged.

    Comment by antipadshist | June 25, 2009 | Reply

  2. […] with sufficient knowledge to make good judgements [like : "Calm, peace, solidarity" mentioned in previous post or "thou shall not vote for certain politicians and parties" ?] […]

    Pingback by MICT & ME take preventive measures against possible “Twitter revolution” in Thailand? « Media War | June 24, 2009 | Reply

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