Sifting through the transcript of a CNN program that discussed the censorship of the Thaksin interview, Leonard Doyle, the foreign editor at Britains’ The Independent, caught my attention. He is featured in this segment alongside CNN’s Bangkok correspondent, Dan Rivers. They do not pull their punches. Over at 2Bangkok, reference is made to the program’s “many sensationally negative comments about Thailand”.

Asked whether Thailand’s approach is “achingly familiar, perhaps, with other countries in Asia?”, Leonard Doyle responds:

Well, it’s extraordinary, really. And it does have echoes of Burma, of course, where the generals have been in charge for a long time. And when one is of the Thai generals looking over the border and saying, well, that’s how we need to do things. And it shows to us, I think, it’s an extraordinary story, but it really just reveals how useless generals are at ruling countries.

I mean, they’re pretty good at tanks and shooting and square bashing, but when it comes to the complexities of running a modern economic system, which is Thailand, there are showing just total incompetence and making themselves a laughingstock.

The idea that they blame CNN for the popularity of the former democratic elected leader is just outrageous.

Rivers then weighs in:

And I think the big worry for media organizations like us, and you know, the other ones here, the BBC, and other big American networks is that this might be the beginning, you know, of a slippery slope, that suddenly the army will use, you know, the fact that we have carried an interview with Thaksin as an excuse for example not to renew visas, or to make life difficult for us.

And I think that’s a big concern as we go into 2007, you know, about really what is happening in Thailand, and you know, is there really going to be a restoration of democracy?

As always, I suggest you read the full transcript and make up your own mind. New Mandala reader comments on this transcript – and the wider issue of media freedom under Southeast Asia’s dictatorships – are, of course, very welcome.