Here is an open letter written by “The Red Shirt Phrai” a member of the Progressive Democracy Group (PDG).
An open letter to major Thai media
Stop supporting the tyrannical aristocratic government that abuses the people (phrai)
The Red Shirt Phrai
“The governance of a country reflects (the liberty of expressing opinions and information of) the media in that country.” The closure of almost all channels for communicating among the red shirts and Thai society (e.g., the red shirt’s television–the People’s channel, almost 1,000 local radio stations, and more than 36 web sites) has been done by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government since April 8, 2010. Furthermore, major Thai media (most, if not all) have supported the Abhisit government by reporting half-truths to deceive people. This is not different from what has been done during previous political conflicts between the people and tyrant governments in the October 1973, October 1976, May 1992, and April 2009 events. With advanced technology for communication, the intensity and magnitude of fabricating and painting the news to distort the facts seems to be more prevalent than in the past. Currently, most Thai media (government radio and television stations, free TV, and local radio stations and ASTV owned by the People’s Alliance for Democracy–PAD) are acting as a tool for propagandizing people about the rightness of the Abhisit government in its brutal mission to crush the red shirt demonstrations at Phan Pha Bridge and on Radjadamneorn Road on April 10, 2010.
The propaganda of major Thai media has bombarded Thai society almost 24 hours a day through beautiful words but distorted information, such as suggesting the deaths of 17 red shirts and 4 soldiers (the latest report while writing this letter) might have been caused by a third party, the terrorists, retired soldiers who are red shirts, or some red shirts who pretended to be soldiers for making a scene, etc. These media have also claimed the crackdown against the red shirts by Thai state security forces leading to the 21 deaths and more than 800 hundred injured was the fault of the leaders of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) without mentioning the wrongdoings of the government and other parties involved in the political conflict. The storm of misinformation through many communication channels under the complete control of the government is an attempt to deceive society and avert responsibility for the violent crackdown against red shirt demonstrators by the Ahbisit government, leading to the tragedy of 21 deaths.
The formidable security forces used water cannons, tear gas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, and other forms of violence against the unarmed red shirt protestors at Khok Woa and Jor-Por-Ror intersections around noon on April 10. The brutal mission increased in intensity in the late afternoon when tear gas and rubber bullets appeared to be ineffective in crushing the red shirt protesters. The state security forces then used a helicopter to drop tear gas onto the hi-park stage located at Phan Pha Bridge and in front of the stage, which was surrounded mostly by the elderly and children, who had gathered in peace to listen to speeches of some UDD leaders on the stage. Heavy weapons (e.g., M16 rifles) with live ammunition were used; the guns shot toward the red shirts standing up in the front lines at Khok Woa intersection. The noise of shooting did not calm down until 10 pm when the state security forces retreated because of the serious injuries of the forces commander (i.e., Major General Walit Rotjanaphakdee) and his 4 soldiers–who were later reported dead.
The biased news reports and broadcasts of most Thai media about the demonstrations and movements of the red shirts, who mostly supported the previous Thaksin government, may result from various causes: for instance, 1) the failure of system thinking of some media who have been trapped in the matrix of the old traditional and conservative systems, 2) the ghost of Thaksin’s system made up to scare Thai society these past four years by some people who considered themselves an elite and well-educated group (the yellow-white-pink shirts); up to the present, most Thai media and these people have been spooked by what they fabricated themselves, or 3) benefits gained from the invisible power that backs up the Abhisit government through the image of super persons with high ethics and morality. The negative attitudes and unconscious actions of these media toward the red shirt movement have more or less increased the deep confrontation among people with different political opinions in Thai society and triggered the 21 deaths from the crackdown of red shirts on April 10. If the stepped-up dirty power tactics of the Abhisit government are comparable to a tyrant who has robbed the parliament and abused the owners (i. e., partly the red shirts), then the media have been followers in helping the tyrannical government abuse people. The media have used their weapons (press and propaganda broadcasts on TV) to stab the abused people with no discussion of the wrongs about which they complain.
As one of the red shirt phrais who has been affected by Abhisit’s governance and the double standard, I would like to request (but not beg) the Thai media as follows:
1. Consider and improve your role and duty as media to be more professional about reporting news from both sides based on morality, ethics, and conscience than what you have been doing. Otherwise, you have no right to criticize, comment, or condemn the others’ wrongdoings because you are the same or even worse by using pen and ink to make money on the suffering of phrais. Do not forget that you are also phrais like us although you have never thought about or listened to our voices for the past four years.
2. Stop looking down on the movement of the red shirt phrais and thinking that they are fighting for an individual (i.e., Dr. Thaksin Shinnawatra); or they are brainwashed to sacrifice their lives for the movement leaders. In fact, all of us have been brainwashed under the patron-client Sakdina (Sakdina = a status in terms of land given by the sovereign to a nobleman in accordance with his rank) system that has been part of Thai society for years. However, even under this system, no one would be happy to die for someone else. Besides, the inconvenient truths that most Thai media cannot accept are: 1) there are large numbers of red shirt phrais, the majority of this country (more than 14 million were registered to be the UDD members, more are waiting to register across the country. About 20% with higher education (Masters or Ph.D. degrees) from leading universities inside the country or from abroad do not register to be the UDD members but stand on the same side; and 2) the demand for the dissolution of parliament and the return of power to the Thai people to vote for their government is based on democratic principles and rights. There is sound evidence to show that the Abhisit government is illegitimate and lacks authority to govern the country anymore. The Abhisit government is heavily corrupt, not able to solve the critical crisis of the country, and recently became tyrannical by ordering the violent crackdown against the red shirt phrais leading to 21 deaths with hundreds injured on April 10. Additionally, it is clear that the red shirt phrais need a true democracy of the people, by the people, and for the people, not the current fake democracy controlled by the aristocratic group.
3. Stop indirectly or directly supporting the Abhisit government’s use of double standards for administering phrais with different shirt colors. For example, most Thai media hardly criticized the PAD leaders after they took over Government House for more than 3 months in 2008 and seized Thailand’s international airport for a week in late November of the same year. Additionally, the Abhisit government fails to use law enforcement for the violent actions instigated by PAD leaders. In contrast, serious law enforcement has immediately been used by the Abhisit government to crush the demonstrations of the red shirt phrais on Phan Pha Bridge and at the Rachaprasong intersection with the strong support of most Thai media, which attack the movement of the red shirt phrais though many channels every day.
4. Stop propagandizing half-truths, or making false charges against the red shirt phrais, unfairly calling them criminals of society; while the real criminals are unhampered in their fake righteousness with obvious support from some academics, independent organizations, and most Thai media.
Finally, I believe that the four requests above are reasonable, and it is possible for the Thai media to reconsider their actions. Nevertheless, these depend on the accountability, conscience, and the standpoints of the media to choose either to be phrai media that acts as slaves of the aristocratic group forever, or to be phrai media that acts on democratic principles to report the truth with rightness and fairness for all phrais of whatever shirt color.