A tale of two newspapers: HM The Queen’s speech

A tale of two newspapers: HM The Queen's speech - November 19, 2004

Yesterday the Thai-language world was abuzz with speculation on whether the Nation Group and other anti-government leaning press correctly reported the tone of HM The Queen's speech on November 16, 2004 about the Southern troubles.

The claim is that HM The Queen's speech was in no way a "tearful plea" as The Nation stated in their headline (CALL FOR UNITY : Queen makes tearful plea, November 17, 2004). The Bangkok Post does a much better job explaining exactly what was said in the speech (Queen urges unity, peace - Feels compelled to speak out on South, November 17, 2004).

To the non-Thai there is perhaps not a large difference in the articles, but the nuances many Thais found when comparing the actual speech to the way it was reported in the press are indicative of the range of opinions over the issues in the South. Many Thais--especially those who want to take a harder line against the 'troublemakers'--felt that the reporting of the speech in The Nation was intended to insinuate that the government must heed a call to moderation and that this shows The Nation's continuing anti-government stance. As most foreign reports on Thailand are based on the English-language dailies, The Nation's take on events influences news in international publications.

Contrary to the way it was reported in The Nation, the actual text of the speech in Thai is widely interpreted as encouragement to stand firm to defend that country along with a plea that soldiers, police and government must work together to halt the violence. HM The Queen also explained how troops had successfully taught village women how to shoot guns and this had enabled them to defend themselves. The speech ended with the Queen wondering, in jest, whether she herself should learn to shoot a gun without wearing glasses even though HM is 72 years old. The audience appreciated the joke and laughed (full Thai-language text of the speech).

The world over, pronouncements by royalty are closely scrutinized and the most successful of speeches appeal to the widest group of people while allowing individuals to feel that the speech is for them. Perhaps the local media being able to find slightly different shades of meaning in the speech is indicative of the Thai Royals' abiding appeal to all strata of Thai political life.

Whether or not any particular way of reporting a speech would be an effective way of shaping public opinion (as some claim), the interest in this issue shows the passionate feelings raised by nationhood and the threats posed in the South. As these problems persist and an election looms with historic ramifications for the Thai political scene, the image Thailand presents to the world will continue to be of critical interest to all sides of the political spectrum.

* The full Thai-language text of HM The Queen's speech is at the Manager Daily site.
* On November 17, HM The King made a speech to newly promoted generals and admirals about interservice cooperation to extinguish the Southern conflagration. Full-text is here.
* TNA's reporting of the speech:
Queen urges all Thai to be grateful to motherland - TNA, November 17, 2004
Her Majesty the Queen has called for all Thais with all religions to be loyal and grateful to their motherland, and has urged all parties concerned to brainstorm ideas for solutions to the current spate of violence and unrest in the country's deep South...

More on Troubles in the South Also: Nationalism & Right-wing Politics

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