Above: Related to Prayuth’s shirt-button example
What happens when a foreign journalist challenges the Thai PM over his dictatorship? – abc.net.au, April 1, 2015
[At first this seemed to be an awkward April Fool’s Day prank, but it turns out to be another example of the intersection of parachute journalism (little context or perspective) and the insular Thai ruling class incapable of making themselves understood outside their own culture.
The context to the Thai situation is that Chaturon and Weng are agitating for their only goal–return Thaksin to political power. Meanwhile, the military purposefully takes a hard line to indicate to the Thai political world that Thaksin is finished and must be abandoned.
Of course, Prayuth is falling into the Thai “big man” trap that Thai military men are so susceptible to and his arrogance seems to grow by the day. Every military coup clique in the past has succumbed to the lure of unquestioned power and this is what Thaksin and the opposition are counting on as time passes. Add in a precipitous economic downturn and the tables are set for another big Thaksin-directed government to come to power. However, if it appears this eventuality is likely, the military will simply not return power. They have committed to wait out Thaksin this time around.
Despite the lack of context, it is not unfair that Prayuth is in the hot seat now. The military took control and is making the rules so the focus is on Prayuth. Prayuth always puts himself front and center with the press instead of relying on a more congenial and nimble spokesperson. Prayuth’s desire to speak as the one and only font of power contrasts with the multiple voices the pro-Thaksin side can turn out to innocently bemoan the lack of “true democracy.”
Prayuth’s odd interactions with the press can only lead to unflattering portrayals in the foreign press. The ABC report stresses how heroic their “gutsy” reporter was as she “challenges” a dictator. The article also gives the pro-Thaksin camp a chance to comment with one voice on what is becoming an emerging theme–conflict is bound to return because there is not true democracy.
It is interesting that ABC omits Prayuth’s shirt button reply to Hawley’s question entirely and their video is edited to make it seem as though Prayuth was only able to mumble to the foreign reporter’s questions before curtly dismissing her.
The Nation’s article on the incident adds Prayuth’s attempt at an answer to the reporter’s question–an explanation concerning shirt buttons. This refers to a Thai saying about getting the order of buttons correct.
Using such a Thai-centric example is a bizarre response to give to a foreign reporter. It only serves to highlight the Thai inability to see any situation outside the context of their cultural understanding. Thaksin must be astonished that his rival is foolish enough to confront the foreign press with such a reply. In any event, ABC simply ignored the reply and edited their video to make it seem as though Prayuth was not able to answer the question at all. The Sydney Morning Herald did report Prayuth’s answer to the ABC reporter.
It is also worth noting that former PM Yingluck was continually condemned in the harshest terms for her English speaking ability–but her English-speaking ability is obviously well above Prayuth’s.]
Transcript: What happens when a foreign journalist challenges the Thai PM over his dictatorship? – abc.net.au, April 1, 2015
Video: What happens when a foreign journalist challenges the Thai PM over his dictatorship?
Thai democracy: ‘wrong buttons in wrong holes’ – The Nation, April 1, 2015
…The reporter asked if he knew that the foreign community feared Thailand would not achieve a true democracy under the new charter, which is being drafted.
Prayut asked what democracy was in her view. If it was about having freedom, then today people can go around freely, he said, adding Thailand must reform its charter.
As an analogy, he undid some buttons of his shirt to explain to the reporter in English that Thai democracy was a case of wrong buttons in the wrong holes. He said the result was not only the shirt looks wrinkled but even the trouser looks untidy…
I’m not a ‘ruthless person’: Thai PM Prayuth Chan-ocha rejects dictatorship innuendo – smh.com.au, April 2, 2015
…He undid some buttons of his shirt to explain to ABC reporter Samantha Hawley that Thai democracy was a case of wrong buttons in the wrong holes…
Earlier: Four years for Pryauth?
2Bangkok Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.