If you read the comments on sites like New Mandala or Bangkok Pundit (welcome back, BP!) with any regularity then you probably know that critical jabs at The Nation have been de rigueur for many years.
One pinnacle of such criticism comes in the satirical form of www.notthenation.com, which still produces a steady stream of commentary that leverages off the kinds of stories that The Nation tends to print.
But The Nation isn’t always bad.
Today I should draw New Mandala readers’ attention to a very important article by Nation journalist Pravit Rojanaphruk. For some context, there is a brief profile of Pravit here and his very quotable comment on the lese majeste law here. His most recent article has also been reproduced over at Prachatai where there are already some comments from a number of NM regulars.
Pravit’s article dwells on the graffiti which appeared on a corrugated iron wall outside Central World during last weekend’s Red shirt gatherings in central Bangkok. He reports that the graffiti has now been hastily painted over by those who “decided to sanitise the wall and remove it from the history of Thai politics, circa 2010”. It is disappointing that Pravit can’t recount any of the wall’s messages on pain of a lese majeste accusation. So instead of quoting the “unprecedented” graffiti Pravit observes that “[t]he gap between what is spoken and admitted privately, and what is recited and dismissed publicly is widening and exacting an increasing cost on Thai society”.
This strikes me as an especially astute observation. For what it’s worth, when Andrew and I established New Mandala back in 2006 one of our goals was to help bridge the chasm between what academics, and others, say among themselves and what they can say in public.
One thing that I will say in public is that even though assessments of Thailand’s immediate prospects seem to be on a never-ending pessimistic slide it gives me some confidence when the country still has journalists such as Pravit, and such as the un-named photojournalist in his article. Records are kept, photos are taken, archives are made. Great journalism is a gift to us all. One day, parts of this material may, with luck, end up shared with institutions like our National Library in Canberra. It will then help others to write the histories and sociologies of these momentous years.
From where I sit, journalists and academics work best as two sides of the very same coin. Kudos to Pravit and all those who share his journalistic mission.