Michael's Dispatches

Some Thoughts About The Kingdom of Thailand

21 Comments

img001-1000With Former Prime Minister Abhisit.

29 December 2012

On Christmas Eve, ThaiPBS television interviewed me in Bangkok.  The interview is scheduled to air on 31 December at 9:40PM Thailand time.  Our interview will be online here.

Ms. Nattha Komolvadhin of ThaiPBS requested this interview after I made a statement on Facebook saying that murder charges against former Prime Minister Abhisit are factually baseless and morally wrong.

ThaiPBS is a publicly funded media organization, widely respected for addressing social issues that sometimes discomfit the government, regardless of which political party may be in power at the time.

The Thai government uses tax money to support ThaiPBS, which in turn sometimes slams the government.  Thailand has a moral compass.

My statements that the Royal Thai Army (RTA) and Mr. Abhisit did not commit murder are supportable, though they are contentious among some Thai, and among some journalists.

img002-1000Destroyed in Afghanistan during fighting (2011)

In 2010, I left Afghanistan and flew to Thailand, where I witnessed serious fighting.  Nearly 2,000 people were injured, and approximately 90 were killed.

I did not see all of the fighting.  Nobody did.  The troubles were spread too thinly over time and distance for any single person to witness all events.

Collectively, hundreds of journalists covered the fight.  In crowded downtown Bangkok, with its many skyscrapers, windows, and cameras, nothing happening on the streets could be kept secret.

This was not a remote Afghan battlefield, but a thunder dome, saturated with spectators with phones and cameras snapping and flashing by the thousands.

The Twitterverse was aflame. Citizen observers on Twitter posted some of the best and most immediate reporting.

Red Shirt protestors set up an immense armed camp in Bangkok’s central business district.  I often walked through the camp with my camera.  The police, Army, and protestors allowed complete access.  This was risky.  Firefights erupted without warning.

The RTA was initially ordered to contain Red Shirt mobs that caused many of the deaths and injuries.

After several months of violent protest and government patience, the RTA was ordered to break up the protest and to free downtown Bangkok so that people could get back to work.

The Thai work hard. The Red Shirts occupying the central business district was very disruptive.

It is unpopular in some circles to say that the Red Shirts committed murders, but it is a fact.  Never fear truth.

Many Red Shirts became angry that other Red Shirts resorted to violence.  Red Shirts denounced other Red Shirts who committed murder and arson.

There are many good and moral people among the Red Shirts who do not support crime of any sort.  They are my friends.

img003-1000Iraq, 2005

Some Red Shirts brought children into their camp even though bullets were flying.  It was dishonorable to bring children into a combat zone.  Images of children killed in war are branded into my memory.

Red Shirt leadership should have ordered that children be taken home.  Press members should not issue a free pass to leaders who allow kids to be brought to combat.  Any journalist who did not report on the children is professionally flawed.

This level of sustained and violent occupation would never have been permitted in the United States.   The first time that a protestor fired an M79 grenade launcher in downtown New York City, popular opinion would have demanded that the police or the Army put them down.

Occupy Wall Street is annoying, for example, but we can live with it.  If members of Occupy Wall Street fired grenades or an RPG, a final response would have been demanded.

Waging insurrection is not a constitutionally protected activity in any country. Peaceful protesting is protected in some countries, including the United States and Thailand.

Launching grenades is over the line.  Dozens of bombings, grenade attacks, and shootings were perpetrated in Bangkok during the Red Shirt protest, including a small car bomb. In addition to the protests, a steady insurrectional campaign targeting symbolic targets was waged.

Red Shirt protestors used automatic weapons, 40mm grenade launchers, bombs, firebombs, and firework rockets, not to mention slingshots and ball bearings.

Many Red Shirts were courageous and unafraid of combat.  I greatly respect Red Shirts for their courage under fire.  Much was caught on video.  I respect them though I believe that they should not have engaged in violence.

Red Shirt instigation upset many Red Shirt sympathizers who have an honest set of problems that must be addressed by the Thai government.  The current government was elected with crucial support from the Red Shirts. Apparently the government has not yet addressed all Red Shirt complaints.

img004-1000Many journalists stayed at the Dusit Thani hotel.

Before I stepped into the protest area, I asked US Special Forces veterans, and others who lived in the Kingdom for many years, where I should go to witness events from the front lines.

My advisers opined that the best position was at the famous Dusit Thani hotel.  Five stars.  The Dusit Thani was at ground zero.

They also advised not to go.  This advice came from Vietnam-era Green Beret combat veterans, and from veterans of Grenada, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

img005-1000Man in Black with firebombs. Shortly after I took this photo, a man was shot dead.

Despite their warnings, I went and enjoyed the hotel’s amenities in between visits to the protest site. Because I stayed at the Dusit Thani, detractors later derided my stay as a vacation.

While I was talking on the phone in my room, an RPG struck and detonated three floors above.  This was no vacation.

The Dusit Thani was perfect.  You could eat, shower, sleep, and access the Internet.  That it happened to be a five-star hotel was ironic, and bizarrely nice compared to years of living in tents, trailers, and dirt.

I have been incredibly lucky in combat.  People regularly die around me.   I have so far escaped without a scratch.

The only time that I have been shot was in front of the Dusit Thani, just as another man was shot and killed a short distance down the street.  Luckily the bullet that hit me was a ricochet, and it caused me no bleeding.  The other man was dead.

But that is not the point, which is that I was not on vacation in the middle of a battlefield where thousands of bullets were flying, and where guests kept the curtains closed because of sniper fire.

img006-1000Scene of fighting a short walk from the Dusit Thani. Red Shirt battlements in the background.

That the Dusit Thani stayed open was preposterous.  In America, it is inconceivable that the police would allow hotel proprietors and customers to make their own mortal decisions.  Surely the hotel would have been closed.

The RPG shot was the final blow.  The Dusit Thani did not want a reputation as a venue where RPGs killed journalists.  The hotel closed.

I had to move, and so I took my gear to another hotel, which overlooked part of the battle area.

Staying at the Dusit Thani was the most comfortable danger that I ever experienced. I still recommend the hotel to friends.

img007-1000Many correspondents go to war, but war correspondents who spend years in combat are rare. War writers like Joe Galloway are exceptional. (Photo during 2011 combat in Afghanistan.)

Most of the reporters who covered the 2010 fighting in Bangkok had never seen combat.

For those who are not familiar with military operations, and with ground fighting in particular, Soldiers look like men in green carrying guns, and when they shoot, it is loud.

Amateur observers will miss much detail, even if they have video to replay.

img008-1000Artillery firing in support of combat operations, Afghanistan 2010.

There were many courageous and smart journalists at the protest site.  When the shooting picked up, most of them stuck to it.  Some moved in closer.

Photographers and videographers require the most courage.  They must be close to the action.  Writers and print journalists can see everything they need from twenty yards away in more safety.


img009-1000A US Soldier is mortally wounded from combat. Afghanistan 2011.

When the Bangkok fighting was intense, I was conservative and put on my writing hat, and prayed that the photographers would not get hit.  Some did.

Combat is too familiar for me to treat every firefight as if it were the last train running.  In my world, firefights are a continuously looping train.  Sometimes I sit and watch the bloody train go round-and-round.

img010-1000Photographing just after lethal bomb blast in Afghanistan, 2011

This year, 2012, is the first year since December 2004 that I have not been in a serious war.  I witnessed sustained and serious combat in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  If fortune graces me for 48 hours, 2012 will be the first year that I did not witness war since December 2004.

img011-1000American rockets strike in Afghanistan, 2011.

By 2010, having already spent much time in Thailand, I was in a good position to understand the fighting.

I do not comprehensively understand the politics behind the fighting—only Thai or specialized analysts can make that claim—but I can analyze the fighting itself.

Many of the amateurs said that my words were false.   They said that the RTA, under orders from then-Prime Minister Abhisit, committed murder.  They produced no proof to support these sensational murder allegations.

Thailand enjoys freedom of the press.   Few topics are off limits.  Pornography is off limits.

An insult to the Royal institution can get you imprisoned.  If you disparage the Royalty on Facebook while in Kansas, and months later fly to Thailand, you may be arrested and jailed.

img012-1000Soldiers sizing up the battlefield in front of the Dusit Thani.

A task force in Bangkok combs the Internet for acts of lèse majesté.  I took a drive recently with one of the officers who works on that task force.  He said that offenders residing in the United States commit most violations.

If you are an American and you commit lèse majesté, the King may pardon you after some time in prison.  If you are fortunate you may be sent back to America and blacklisted.  You will not be tortured or beaten.

You will endure the same penal conditions as any other convict, which in Thailand, as anywhere, can be unpleasant.  You will be declared persona non grata, and you will not be welcome to return to the Kingdom.

His Majesty King Bhumibol of Thailand is an excellent man of peace, and he is revered as a grandfatherly figure here.  I could easily leave Thailand and write otherwise, but this is true.

The King is highly respected by American military and government officials.  I was invited to a private clubhouse for American military veterans, and they had a portrait of His Majesty the King and Her Majesty the Queen on the wall.

Behind closed doors, amongst themselves, the veterans of our military hold King Bhumibol Adulyadej in the highest esteem.  The King earned respect through hard work for his people.  He is beloved.

The King spent much time in the United States in his youth.  He is always welcome in America.  The King will never go thirsty when I have water.

img013-1000The RTA allowed complete access to the combat zone.

Criticizing the King of Thailand is not like disparaging the President of the United States or the Prime Minister of Thailand.

It is permissible to criticize the Prime Minister of Thailand.  The Thai often do it, no matter who he or she may be.  Thai people criticize their leadership with passion and imagination.

The current Prime Minister of Thailand is a woman.  The United States has never had a female president, while Poland, Germany, the UK, and Pakistan all have had female leaders.  South Korea just elected a woman.

While the gender of the chief executive may not be a critical matter, it is clear that America does not have a patent on “democracy,” and in some ways, compared to other countries, Americans are not as free as we like to believe and advertise.

But insulting His Majesty the King is like insulting the beloved grandfather of millions of proud Thai people.  I doubt that the King himself cares about such comments, but millions of his subjects do, and passionately.

My Thai friends will defend the King with their lives.  The same way that we would protect our grandparents.  These many words are meant to underline a matter of utmost seriousness.

img014-1000A woman rescues a photograph of the beloved King and Queen of Thailand. Stores had been looted and burned. Among so many valuables, she rescued the image of the King and Queen.

Aside from issues of lèse majesté, press freedoms are more liberal in Thailand than most other countries that I have seen.

People are free to write words in the Kingdom that would get them thrown in jail in Singapore, or that might start religious riots in India, or that might get them stoned to death in Pakistan, or a fatwa put on their head.

Cartoons that would cause riots in other countries are ignored or laughed at here.

Journalists are required to obtain special visas in countries such as India, Myanmar, Israel, China, and the United States.  Not Thailand.

Thailand does not fear ink.

You are free to write until your pen runs dry.

Foreign journalists without an office in the United States must apply for a special visa or risk deportation at the border.

I went to Israel without a visa and inadvertently caused a kerfuffle, but to their credit, the Israelis were good about it.

I was asked to speak at a conference in India. Hassles getting a visa led me to cancel.

India is freer than the United States in many respects, but a misplaced word can launch riots.  Indians deal with complexities that are unfamiliar to most Americans and Thai.

Yet a western journalist can read this, then drive to an airport, buy the next available ticket, and fly to Thailand.  No visa required.  No charge for Americans.

If you are in California, and you get the notion that “I will fly to Bangkok this afternoon,” you can.  No need to pack a bag.  Buy everything here.

You can land in Bangkok with nothing but your passport and a return ticket.  Airlines are required to stipulate that you have a return ticket, unless you have a long-stay visa, but in my experience Thai authorities never ask to see the ticket.  I almost never have one.

img015-1000

Thai authorities do not require that you declare that you are a journalist (in my case a writer), carrying the most dangerous weapon on the planet (a camera) and the second most dangerous weapon (a pen).

Not that it matters if you bring a camera.  You can purchase the latest hardware at the airport, or downtown.

You can show up with ten cameras in bags, and another camera over your shoulder, wearing a t-shirt emblazoned, “I am a journalist.   I will make Thailand look bad,” wearing a hat that says, “I hate Thailand.  I am a journalist.”

I do not recommend this action, but you can, and you would probably be admitted to the Kingdom along with all other visitors, with no hassle.

Do not try that in China, Singapore, Israel, India, or in the United States.

In Thailand, the immigration officer will stamp your passport and wave you through.

If you are smuggling drugs, you risk execution.

If not, you are free to travel anywhere, anytime, with few restrictions of any kind.

img016-1000Correspondents on the battlefield in the central business district of Bangkok.

You are free to file stories night and day, describing how much you hate Thailand, and how terrible it is, and how terrible the government is.

You can focus on drug abuse, prostitution, corruption, on people who drive motorbikes without helmets or lights while talking on a cell phone, and ignore the innumerable virtues of this delightful Kingdom.

Most Thai will smile and shrug.  They have other matters of concern.


img017-1000Years of work and combat are required to develop the necessary skills to become a serious war correspondent. (Afghanistan, 2011.)

Many people may not like you, but you will be free to criticize Thailand and its government until your visa expires.  Then they will renew your visa and you can continue.

If you go to the United States and are observed photographing government buildings or infrastructure, you might be arrested, even if the law permits such activity.

I was arrested in America for not telling immigration officials how much money I make.  I was handcuffed.  I never answered.  I was willing to go to jail.

They came to their senses and they released me, and I endured a painful vacation in the land of the free, and later returned to Afghanistan, where American Soldiers were trying to free the Afghan people whether they liked it or not.  Americans like to set people free so that we can ignore that we are shackled.

In Thailand, you can travel into every tiny village and photograph and video until your cameras fall apart.

img018Journalist hit in Bangkok. (Source of image unknown.)

In the United States, when there is an incident, law enforcement cordons off a large area.  No press members are allowed to enter.

During the protests in Thailand, the press, and tourists, were free to roam the battlefields during the middle of the fighting.  Many did.

Hundreds of journalists were there, stacked up with the Royal Thai Army during the fighting.  Bullets were flying everywhere.

The RTA ignored journalists like they were gnats.  Soldiers often smiled and shared their water.

Before I got there, a courageous Japanese journalist was shot and killed.  Many blamed the government.  But again, how?  Who did it?  It could have been anyone.

Every time someone was shot . . . which happened many times . . . some blamed the government, though I saw nothing but discipline from the RTA.

There were zero restrictions on photography, on video, or access.  Any journalist who says otherwise was either not there, or is lying.

img019-1000Royal Thai Army Soldiers on standby.

If you wanted to cross between the lines you were free.  I did so many times.  That is a freedom that many Americans say that they want, but we seem eager to surrender.

In India, if you want to swim with crocodiles, the Indian Police might say, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” but then they will watch you go.  Later that day, Indian police will dutifully alert the US Embassy that you were eaten.  Indians do not protect you from yourself.  Thailand is similar.  I love it.

Personal responsibility is real here.  You are free.  All consequences are on you.

You are free to wade into a firefight or to pet crocodiles.  Do not whine when you get bitten or shot.

We say that we want freedom, but Americans do not live in freedom.  We Americans seem to spend every waking hour plotting how to shackle ourselves.  Freedom is becoming an empty word in America.

America does not want fewer laws.  Many Americans want more laws.  You could never cover fighting so freely in America.

img020-1000Minimal cover. Take it where you can get it.

Hundreds of journalists covered the months of fighting.  When it came to the showdown, all of the big players were here.  CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, Reuters, AP, AFP, New York Times.

Reporters flew in from Korea to Japan, from South America to Canada.  I saw them every day.  Some were killed.

Their work was honorable, but some of us have no patience with those who blame others after getting shot in a firefight that they volunteered to attend.

The general theme of some reporting was that Mr. Abhisit and the Royal Thai Army were on a rampage.  This was false.

The allegation does not pass a sniff test.

img021-1000The RTA earned its honor.

It must be embarrassing for the hundreds of journalists, with thousands of cameras in the hands of civilians, that not a single one captured a photograph of the RTA committing an atrocity.  Yes, tense videos depicting bullets flying have been published.  That is combat.

img022-1000Sometimes the press seemed to outnumber the RTA.

Hundreds of second-rank journalists were there—great journalists but with no gold medal—and they had every interest in snapping that award-winning photograph.

img023-1000Bangkok was hot and humid. Bad time to be in body armor. The RTA was honorable and polite.

img024-1000Dangerous work.

Both sides were shooting.  Red Shirts and Men in Black among them were videotaped firing automatic weapons.

I photographed Men in Black using firebombs.

The Men in Black were serious.  The Men in Black were not angry college boys.  They were commandos.  Confident.  Ready.  Not to be trifled with.

It is my suspicion that that the Men in Black were RTA veterans or veterans of other government agencies.  They were too good to be home-grown amateurs.  Some people claim that MiB they were former Border Patrol personnel who were personally loyal to their commander. I do not know.

One General switched sides and went to the Red Shirt camp.  I wanted to talk with him but before that chance came, he was shot in the head and killed by a sniper.  I asked Prime Minister Abhisit if he knew who did this.  He said no.


img025-1000No journalists were afraid of the RTA. Soldiers were not committing atrocities. The RTA had nothing to hide. The Soldiers seemed to think that journalists were insane for walking around the battlefield like it was a park.

Some journalists were afraid of the Red Shirts, but not afraid of government personnel under Abhisit, because they knew that while Red Shirts might kill them, Abhisit would not.

The RTA would not shoot me, but I wondered about the Red Shirts.  The Men in Black surely would kill anyone that they perceived as a threat.  They were not as disciplined or as discriminating as the RTA.

img026-1000The press was on the job observing the RTA, but they often gave a pass to the Red Shirts. This is not to imply that the journalist in this image did so. I do not know him.

Journalists captured video of rioters using grenade launchers.

In one fight, someone put a laser on a RTA officer and someone else used it to kill him.

I saw Red Shirts with lasers.   I told journalists that if you see a laser illuminate you or the Soldiers around you, to run, as a 40mm grenade might be inbound.

A 40mm grenade will take perhaps five seconds to get to you (depending on how quickly the shooter can aim, and the range), and the kill radius of a 40mm grenade is small.  A few seconds of running can save you.  I carried an M79 Grenade Launcher when I was in the Army and I know it well.

img027-1000Journalists who ignored Red Shirt looting should be ashamed. Most Red Shirts were not looters and were embarrassed by it. But it happened. It should not be deliberately forgotten.

Most eyewitnesses to the incident say that the Men in Black did the killing.  Best friends make worst enemies.  They must be veterans.  That is my suspicion.  They were too good with their techniques and tactics to be untrained young men.

img028-1000The arson was grievous and shameful.

img029-1000Bangkok fighting

I did not see the Thai Army with grenade launchers.  Grenades came from the Red Shirts.  They fired them on civilians and the RTA.  This is a fact.

But to speak this fact aloud is sacrilegious.  It is a professional affront to hundreds of journalists who did not get the award-winning imagery of the RTA committing atrocities.

How can journalists, who accuse Mr. Abhisit and the RTA of murder, reconcile that hundreds of camera-toting journalists, and thousands of civilians, were completely free in the battle zone, yet nobody witnessed RTA atrocities?

World-class photographers were combing the field and nobody caught the fish.  Why?  Because it did not happen.

img030-1000It was dangerous to huddle with the RTA. Red Shirts fired at them.

Prime Minister Abhisit lost reelection, so he is now the leader of the opposition in Parliament.  Recently he was charged with murder.

This is wrong.

I said and wrote that this is wrong.   Today, critics accuse me of being buddies with Mr. Abhisit.

Photos of former Prime Minister Abhisit and me talking on an airplane from Bangkok to Hat Yai have appeared on the Internet.  That was the only day that I communicated with Mr. Abhisit.

We do not email each other.  I do not know his email address.  I have never been to his home.  We have never shared a coffee together.  We never talk on the phone.  We do not communicate directly or indirectly.  Mr. Abhisit and I are not friends.  I would be honored to know him, but the fact is that we are not buddies.

img031-1000Molotov cocktails in the Red Shirt camp. Think about the implications of this photograph. Who made them? For what purpose? How were they used? Those who were at the protest site know. We witnessed it.

I did not even write a dispatch about this trip.  Few people knew that I took it.  This upset some of my friends who thought that I should have written something, but Mr. Abhisit’s staff never said a foul word for the great access they afforded that day and on others, and they never criticized me for failing to write about my interview with the Prime Minister.

I did the same with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on a couple of trips, many American and British generals, and other officials at the highest levels of the government of the United States.

Down in the dirt, I went on countless combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan with units that I never mentioned.  No slight was meant.

I thank everyone who entertained me at their expense for the education that has helped inform my views.  I cannot write the truth if I do not smell it.

It upsets some folks that I enjoy access and I do not exploit it and write a major dispatch every time that I have a coffee with a General, but for me it is often background.  I intend no arrogance with that statement.  In my line of work, I talk to many people.

And so, regarding the fighting in 2010, this circles back to criticism from detractors who claim that they belong to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

I contacted the Club for clarification after this criticism but I was not graced with a response.

I was invited to the Club.  I was very busy, and regretted that I could not attend.  Then the criticism began.

No slight or insult was intended.  But any member of the Club who did not write about the children in the Red Shirt camp, or the firebombs, does not have a professional stature. Cherry-picking facts is dishonest.  Ignoring that children were brought to the camp is complicity.

As for Mr. Abhisit, I have no interest in defending a murderer.  I do not believe that Mr. Abhisit is a murderer.  Based on my observations, my estimate of Mr. Abhisit is that he is a man of rules.

If I thought that there was truth to the allegations of murder, I would remain silent, unless I had evidence, in which case I would speak and lay out any evidence in my possession.

img032-1000Bangkok burns. Arson was dishonorable. Red Shirts did this.

Ironically, Mr. Abhisit was criticized for showing too much restraint.  His personal courage was widely demonstrated in his openness to the public.  The day that I accompanied Mr. Abhisit, he allowed normal citizens to walk up to him.  I asked his staff if this was normal.  They said yes, and that it worried them.  Mr. Abhisit is physically and morally courageous.

I have no evidence of RTA atrocities.

The Royal Thai Army conducted itself with honor during the Red Shirt protests.  Thai people should be proud to field such an Army.


img033-1000

The larger dispute between Red Shirts, Yellow Shirts, and Multicolor Shirts is complex, and it includes big players.

Mr. Thaksin the Billionaire is the major player, and I suspect that someone close to him is behind the accusations that Mr. Abhisit is a murderer.

I have no proof of this suspicion, just as there is no proof that a man’s hand is actually in the glove at the end of his arm.

Mr. Thaksin is more powerful than I am.   He could order me killed with a gesture.  Would he do it?  Maybe.  But at least he is not a torturing Mexican drug dealer.  It would be a simple bullet.

Would Mr. Abhisit have me killed?  Never.

And so I am defending someone who is now powerless, facing murder charges, and even if Mr. Abhisit were still in charge of the Thai government, he would not have me killed.  He would ignore me.

img034-1000Royal Thai Army soldiers near the protest site. They are good soldiers.

I have nothing to gain from defending Mr. Abhisit.  He has no power.  He may wrongfully go to prison for murder.

There is nothing for me to gain but pain, and the peace of conscience that I did not passively watch an innocent man go to prison, while the RTA is accused of atrocity, when I know that silence is wrong, and speaking truth is right.

img035-1000Some of the most courageous reporters were women.

I have been warned that the current Thai government will punish me for writing these dangerous words.

Mr. Thaksin’s sister is the current Prime Minister.  The elementary school that she attended is just down the road from my home.  My friends went to school with her.  This is her country.  Red Shirts love her.

Mr. Thaksin’s government has not lifted a finger against me.  They have been honorable despite my words.  This is Thailand, not Iran.

Thailand can be dangerous, but mostly it is dangerous for those who bring their demons with them, or for those who do not know how to behave as guests.

img036-1000Red Shirts burned this woman’s small dress shop. Why?

I live on a street where a hundred Chiang Mai police officers live.  The apartment buildings near my home are loaded with police.  They all know me.  They often say hello.  They have been kind.  Many are Red Shirts.

My home is just a short walk from the Red Shirt headquarters.  They know me.  They know where I live.  Sometimes I go to their functions.  I walk by their offices.  The Red Shirts have made no threats against me.

The Thai government has not hampered me in any way.  They renewed my visa with a smile even though I am writing and making statements that they do not like.

img037-1000Amazing Thailand. There is much to learn here.

img038-1000

Life is short.   We should stand up for what is right.  Mr. Abhisit and the RTA did not commit murder.

The Kingdom of Thailand is a great and free country.  Thai people, including those who hate Mr. Abhisit, should not allow perversions of their judicial system.  This is wrong for such a great country as Thailand.

Charges against Mr. Abhisit should be dropped.

Long Live the King.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    WF · 6 years ago
    Thank you Mr. Yon for covering the truth, many of us really appreciate your work on covering the truth. I myself really hate it now when the truth were twist for evil purpose and the false rumors were spend to destroying innocence people who do good deed.
    Still those who really need to face justice now become the one in power I don't know if us Thai people will really knows the real Peace. The situation is just like A group of Blind people believe they can see very clearly than before and refuse to accept the reality even we throw the truth at them they won't believe it.
    Thank you again for the details truth.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ralph Schatzki · 6 years ago
    Thank you so much for this very well-written and powerful piece. I lived as an ex-pat American in Bangkok for more than thirteen years, and I agree unreservedly with everything you have stated with regard to Thai hospitality and acceptance. Not long into my stay in the Kingdom- a wonderful and vastly different place than the USA- I realized that "freedom" can be construed very differently depending on one's expectations, background, culture, and experience. I underwent tremendous growth while living there, and I have no doubt that any American who desires to experience similar growth would benefit immeasurably by spending time there (or, for that matter, in any other culture significantly different from our own).

    I had written a short piece awhile back, the gist of which was that Americans celebrate diversity, and in an almost paradoxical way this is what defines us. Thais, on the other hand, are in so many ways a very unified people. The colors of the Thai flag represent the country, the religion, and the King, and to criticize the King is tantamount to a renunciation of one's "Thai-ness."

    I salute both your tenacity and your courage to speak the truth. This is the kind of reporting of which the world needs more.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Thomas Dikel · 6 years ago
    Michael,
    As always, a beautifully written dispatch. Too bad I'm not on the Pulitzer committee, otherwise you'd have my vote. Thank you. Stay safe brother.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Will Fireatte · 6 years ago
    Beautifully written. I was not there during that difficult time, but everything else you wrote agrees with my own experiences. Thailand is such a wonderful country in many ways. I wish it, and it's people, the best. Thank you for acting with courage and integrity. You represent your own countrymen better than some of our diplomats (or tourists) do! Stay safe. Swasdee Pee Mai krub (Happy New Year)
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Kurt Olney · 6 years ago
    Not sure what to make of this. You have definitely placed yourself in harms way. The journalism you describe in Thailand is non existent in Mexico. Crime scenes in the U.S. are definitely restricted to journalist. Of course visiting any country you are subject to their laws and customs. I will give what you have a written a lot of thought. In the meantime I hope they don't decide to shoot you.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Heywood Jablomi · 6 years ago
    But it is also very simple.

    There are more Red Shirts than there are Yellow Shirts. So the Puea Thai party indisputably won the last election.

    Part of the problem is that the Red Shirts felt as though they were disenfranchised by the coup that deposed Mr. Thaksin in 2006, and there is no question that it was a national trauma inflicted on the Thai body politic.

    Because the Democrat party was able to form a governing coalition with the Bumjaithai party, Red Shirts felt that the Bangkok elites illegitimately took power. You must remember that the constitution and the judicial system disbanded both the PPP and the TRT parties, the predecessors of the currently ruling Puea Thai.

    This is the reason why the current government, and the Red Shirts (they are not synonymous), wish to amend the constitution. They want to delete the clauses that ban corrupt politicians who commit electoral fraud from participation in politics for five years, and most of all they want to delete the clauses that punish parties for the individual abuses of party members by disbanding the parties.

    Mr. Abhisit, as the opposition leader in Parliament, opposes these constitutional changes. He also opposes efforts by the government to pass "reconciliation" measures, which are really a mass pardon for all who committed violence in 2010. Such a pardon would magically make Mr. Thaksin's conviction for corruption vanish, as well as the plethora of criminal charges that are pending against him, including support for terrorism. Mr. Thaksin could, in the event of a pardon, finally return to Thailand.

    Mr. Thaksin and the Red Shirts believe that he was wrongly exiled. In truth, however, Mr. Thaksin has exiled himself. He was granted bail after his conviction on fraud charges, and he received permission from judicial authorities to attend the Olympic Games. Mr. Thaksin never returned to Thailand. He chose self-exile, rather than face the prospect of a jail term. In any case, Mr. Thaksin and the Red Shirts characterize his conviction as "political," and they insist that it was not legitimate.

    The primary obstacle to "reconciliation" and the changes to the constitution that the Red Shirts advocate is Mr. Abhisit. So they attack him. They attempted to have his military rank revoked, but only His Majesty can do that. So the Reds were stymied there. Now they are charging Mr. Abhisit with murder. There is no question that this is an abuse of police authority.

    When Thailand is a country that can prosecute former Prime Ministers for doing their job, (and Mr. Abhisit was very lenient, in my opinion, in his approach to the 2010 riots), it is on an evil path.

    The Reds are pursuing evil tactics in an effort to perpetrate evil goals.

    I grieve for Thailand.

    Long Live His Majesty.
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      Russki Top · 6 years ago
      Excellent synopsis. I wish you were just polemicizign, but form the bit I keep up with you've pretty well nailed it.
      Michael, outstanding piece. My limited time with Thai government employees, soldiers, and civilians gibes with what you've written and experienced here. They take their democracy and their royalty very seriously. They also take personal responsibility equally as seriously. I hope they can get through this crisis with a minimum of pain. Were Thaksin to return and face the music, much of this could be put to rest.
      Thank you again for your reporting and your willingness to call it from the ground view.
      Stay safe.
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    Nazir · 6 years ago
    nicely written Michael, and i miss your Afghanistan photography
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    Aranyabhuti · 6 years ago
    Thank you for sharing Truth.
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    Marybeauty · 6 years ago
    This considerate message might not change anything they did and will do with Abhisit but the intention was there. Really appreciated your honesty and courage.
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    HP · 6 years ago
    I've lived in BKK for 4 years now lived through the red shirt protest living 500 meters from the battle zone ( if I may say it) and I saw exactly what you say, was in the center of things almost daily with my camera ( though I'm not a journalist) and have enough to show why this was never something the army created. Having a protest and what the red shirts did were very different, and shielding it behind innocent civilians and children were cowardly to say it mildly! I ain't no supporter of eithe party but I beleive the government acted like any government in power would and should! Maybe they should have acted earlier! Any death is sad but no group can be allowed to take over a city no matter what color they are! I wish only the best for this beautiful county and hope reds and yellows find a way to move forward and avoid such instances being repeated.
    Long Live the King!
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    Michael Yon author · 6 years ago
    Thank you for the thoughtful comments. My webmaster blocked one comment due to wild profanity. Otherwise, comments are only blocked when they are advertisements, pages of unrelated text, or simply vulgar or gratuitous ad hominem by any standard.
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    leyla · 6 years ago
    Thank you for getting the truth out and God Bless you this coming New Year!!
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    Scotch7 · 6 years ago
    Delighted to recognize the Dusit Thani in your photo. Stayed there in the '80s. Many happy memories of architecture and staff. Sad to read it took fire, but I'm confident it will be repaired gracefully.
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    Skip · 6 years ago
    Very well written, nice to see a journalist with morals and honesty. There are so few left around the planet. Makes me want to visit Thailand for an extended stay.
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    Scott Dudley · 6 years ago
    I recall visiting the Dusit Thani in the '69-'70 timeframe in a brief respite from the gunline. Think the disco there was called the Panda room or the Boom Boom room. Latter might have been a different mission.
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    F Thomas · 6 years ago
    Politics can turn ugly in places such as Thailand. Michael, your coverage I'm sure is factual and to the point.

    Happy New Year!
    Stay Safe - Keep your head down and rear end lower!
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    Chaik · 6 years ago
    Thank you and let the god-forsaken truth be told! We, the Thai people have to live with the twisted lies by the gov. controlled media day in and day out. Thank you again from all of the Thai people who want the world to know the real truth.
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    DD · 6 years ago
    dude, you have balls of titanium.
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    wolfemanjack · 6 years ago
    "In India, if you want to swim with crocodiles, the Indian Police might say, 'I wouldn’t do that if I were you,' but then they will watch you go. Later that day, Indian police will dutifully alert the US Embassy that you were eaten. Indians do not protect you from yourself. Thailand is similar. I love it. ***
    Personal responsibility is real here. You are free. All consequences are on you. *** You are free to wade into a firefight or to pet crocodiles. Do not whine when you get bitten or shot. *** We say that we want freedom, but Americans do not live in freedom. We Americans seem to spend every waking hour plotting how to shackle ourselves. Freedom is becoming an empty word in America. ***
    America does not want fewer laws. Many Americans want more laws."

    Sad but true (the part about America).

    I don't know much about Thai politics but thanks for the balanced reporting.
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    RR · 6 years ago
    Thank you for your covering the truth. As a Thai, I wish Thai journalists are as honest and truthful as you are. We all need to hear the truth.
    Have a happy and safe year.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    por pae · 6 years ago
    can we use this in court? if summoned, will you testify?

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