Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bad Reporting At It's Best

One gets the impression living in Asia that much of the international reporting on the region is done by people who have never actually been here or if they have been they never moved beyond sitting at the bar of the local foreign correspondents club. Take this article from the so called "Global Politician".

Yet Another Constitution For Thailand

Richard S. Ehrlich - 8/9/2007 BANGKOK, Thailand -- Thailand's coup-installed military regime has told citizens to vote "yes" for a new constitution, written while half the country is muzzled under martial law, or accept a mysterious back-up constitution which is being kept secret from the public. In a bizarre political game of constitutional hide-and-seek, the junta refused to reveal which of Thailand's 17 previous constitutions it might use, or what amendments might be added, if a majority "no" vote on Aug. 19 thwarts their draft.

The by-line claims the author is in Bangkok but if so he should know the following. Only 3 provinces in the South are under "Martial Law". Not half the country. Not even a third.

Constitution kept secret?

Hello, they are handing out delivering and providing big yellow books outlining all of the articles in the Constitution to everyone. They are running adverts on TV advising people to not fight but VOTE.

The anti-vote "we vote no" people are well organized and handing out fliers and leaflets explaining why to vote no. And they are allowed to so long as they don't throw bricks from the sidewalks at the Police or beat up garbage truck drivers and steal their vehicles to block the road while they riot.

How anyone could be in Thailand for more than a week and not be aware of those two facts speaks volumes.

A "yes" vote will prevent Mr. Thaksin, his cronies, and other politicians from wielding abusive political and financial power, the regime said. Junta-appointed tribunals froze billions of dollars in cash and assets held by Mr. Thaksin, his family and top officials, amid charges -- still unproven -- of massive corruption

UNPROVEN? Dude, go to the new Bangkok airport.

the 2006 coup was cheered by many well-off Thai residents, businessmen, intellectuals, reporters, academics and others, but criticism increased after the country's economy faltered.

The people who cheered Thaksin's removal were all those who had access to TV channels BESIDES the ones he owned.

The seeds of Thailands current economic problems were sowed well before 2006. Thaksin and associates made it virtually impossible to do business in Thailand and as foreign businesses began to leave his response was "we don't need them".

Next came outrageous visa restrictions and more and more fee increases. This might have been fine ten years ago but what Thailand is now finding out is that business can be done elsewhere in the region for cheaper and without all the difficulties. Cambodia, Vietnam and of course China have all opened up and are far more welcoming.

There are several problems with reporting on Thai politics. The most obvious one is language. I'd love to know more about We Vote No. But is in Thai, a language I can't read. But how hard is it to find someone to read it too you? Not too hard.

The other problem is that the Thais themselves don't really consider it much of any one's business. It's a "Thai matter" so if you're not Thai well it doesn't concern you.

Thaksin was a complete tyrant and thoroughly corrupt. No one in Bangkok was surprised when the coup occurred. The new bunch haven't been in power long enough to be as corrupt as Thaksin was but they are no geniuses either. The seem to want to turn back the clock and have the people living in bamboo huts and riding elephants, like the good old days.

How this will turn out is any one's guess. I'd be surprised if the new constitution goes though.

Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978 and is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism.

A non-fiction book of "investigative journalism"? An interview with a bar girl?

Is this how he justified so many trips to Washington Square and Nana Plaza?

He received Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism's Foreign Correspondents Award.

Of course he did.

Funny how a certain generation because journalists because they wanted to "get the truth out, man". Then another generation became bloggers because we were so tired of THEIR truth and how it doesn't match reality.

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