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05BANGKOK1527 INITIAL MEDIA COVERAGE, GOVERNMENT AND REACTIONS TO THE 2004 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT OTHER

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“27988”,”3/2/2005 13:36″,”05BANGKOK1527″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001527

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, EAP/PD, DRL; HQ UPACOM FOR FPA

HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL, PHUM, KPAO, TH, HUMAN RIGHTS

SUBJECT: THAILAND: INITIAL MEDIA COVERAGE, GOVERNMENT AND

OTHER REACTIONS TO THE 2004 HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Local Thai media on March 2 headlined

their stories on the 2004 Human Rights Report (HRR) with

variations on the theme, \”US government slams Thailand\’s

human rights performance,\” with special attention to

incidents in the South. PM Thaksin has not commented on the

HRR. Official Thai government reaction has been relatively

subdued thus far, but the Ambassador was summoned to the

Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) late in the day to discuss

the report with Permanent Secretary Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn

(septel). Several print and on-line media carried

significant excerpts of the report verbatim. Editorial

comment ranged from favorable to outraged. One local TV

personality, a former Bangkok governor known for his right

wing views and colorful commentary, lashed out at the report,

challenged the Ambassador to a televised debate, and called

for demonstrators to protest at the U.S. Embassy. (Note: A

small demonstration did materialize, reported septel. End

Note.) Abhisit Vejjajiva, the expected new party leader of

the opposition Democrat Party (DP), characterized the report

as fair and accurate. Monitors of the international press

coverage of the worldwide release of the HHR noted a focus on

the Thailand HRR chapter over those of regional neighbors

like Burma and China. End Summary.

 

NEWSPAPERS HEADLINE REPORT AND QUOTE LARGE SECTIONS

 

2. (U) On Wednesday March 2, local print and broadcast media

carried lead stories about criticism of Thailand\’s human

rights record contained in the 2004 HRR, giving particular

emphasis to U.S. citing of violent incidents at the Krue Se

mosque and Tak Bai in southern Thailand. The Thai-language

Matichon newspaper headline, \”U.S. says government measures

in South severely violate human rights; Government Spokesman

explains actions are in line with Constitution,\” sums up how

some newspapers played the story. The English-language

Bangkok Post carried an inside page story, \”U.S. rights

report fingers Thailand.\” The HRR report\’s description of

restrictions on press freedom, in particular the case of

media activist Suphinya Klangnarong, was also noted in most

of the daily press. The Manager newspaper covered the

report\’s human trafficking section. At least four Thai

language daily newspapers and the English language daily The

Nation, carried excerpts from the Thailand chapter. Several

on-line editions of these newspapers carried excerpts of the

report. The HRR inspired several editorials. The Nation\’s

comment, \”A damning report card,\” stated that \”2004 was an

extraordinary year because human rights were flouted with

impunity by the government.\” Other editorials were outraged

at the U.S. portrayal of Thailand. Some Thai media outlets

also ran less prominent stories about HRR criticisms of other

countries.

 

A DEBATE, MR. AMBASSADOR?

 

3. (SBU) Local television news commentator and former

Bangkok governor Samak Suntharawet, who hosts a daily morning

news show, lashed out at the report, describing it as

\”completely inaccurate\” and based on false information given

to the Embassy by NGOs trying to bring down the government.

Echoing commentary heard in previous years around the release

of the HRR, the former politician asked in a baiting tone,

\”Why does such a good ally accuse a close friend?\” In a live

call-in news show later the same morning, Samak challenged

the Ambassador to a public debate on human rights issues. He

also called on Thais to demonstrate in protest at the U.S.

Embassy, and a small, manageable demonstration did

materialize in the afternoon of March 2 (septel). (Comment:

Samak appeared on the Army-controlled Channel 5 and later on

the government-controlled channel 9. We believe his vehement

criticism could not have been made without a green light from

the current government. End comment.) Most other local news

channels carried reports of the HRR release during regular

news broadcasts. The stories were similar in content to the

print media, including short quotes from the HRR. They

carried initial Royal Thai Government (RTG) reaction as well.

 

THAI GOVERNMENT FAIRLY RESTRAINED IN PUBLIC; BUT AMBASSADOR

SUMMONED TO MFA

 

4. (U) Thus far official RTG reaction to the report has been

relatively restrained, but that may not last. Prime Minister

Thaksin Shinawatra, who last year blasted the US as a

\”useless friend\” when the HRR was released, has made no

public statements. Government spokesman Jakrapob Penkair

stated that the RTG had followed the \”rule of law\” and was

still following closely the case of Muslim lawyer Somchai

Neelapaijit, whose disappearance and presumed murder are

prominently mentioned in the report. Ministry of Foreign

Affairs (MFA) spokesman Sihasak Puangketkeow stated that,

\”The annual release of the report is not constructive for

bilateral relations. If there is any concern it should be

expressed through diplomatic channels.\” He also said that

the US should not use its standards as a benchmark for other

countries. On February 28, prior to the Washington release

of the report, The Nation newspaper carried a story

announcing the release the next day with the headline, \”U.S.

report lambastes Thailand\’s rights abuses\” and previewing

some elements of the HRR quite accurately. The next day,

March 1, just prior to the local release, The Nation carried

a follow up story detailing MFA reaction with the headline,

\”US should keep rights report to itself: Foreign Ministry.\”

MFA Permanent Secretary Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn summoned the

Ambassador to a late afternoon March 2 discussion of the HRR

(septel).

 

OPPOSITION PARTY LEADER SUPPORTIVE

 

5. (U) On the morning of March 2, opposition Democrat Party

(DP) member of parliament, Apirak Kosayodhin made positive

public comments when asked about the report. Noting that the

HRR is global and that release of the Thailand chapter is an

annual occurrence, Abhisit wondered why the government always

made such a fuss defending itself from criticism. Apirak,

who is expected to be elected Democrat party leader during a

party conference this weekend, said that he thought the

report was generally factual and described the situation of

human rights accurately. The government could gain much from

a careful analysis of the report and use it to solve some of

the problems facing the country, he said.

 

THAILAND IN THE SPOTLIGHT?

 

6. (U) Embassy Bangkok posted the HRR in both the English

and Thai languages on its website March 1, a few hours after

release of the worldwide HRR in Washington. However, most

media attention in Thailand drew heavily from international

sources. AFP carried an early print report on Thailand.

CNN\’s Asia correspondent Aneesh Raman carried a short story

that quoted the Thai MFA spokesman as noted above and

highlighted major criticisms outlined in the HRR. The BBC

also made special mention of criticism of Thailand\’s human

rights record. Some local TV stations covered release of the

full report in Washington DC, some featuring clips of Acting

DRL Assistant Secretary of State Michael Kozak. Some local

observers expressed surprise at the international media focus

on Thailand, which seemed to them to overshadow interest in

the HRR chapters on Burma, China, or Cambodia.

 

7. (SBU) Comment. Extensive local media coverage reaction

was predictable. The HRR\’s descriptions of abuses in the

South came in the midst of a news cycle focused intensely on

these issues and proposed RTG policies aimed at

reconciliation. Perhaps regional and international media

attention focused on the Thailand chapter because Thailand

has been in the media eye for months with the tsunami

disaster and its February national elections. The release of

the report, the media attention it has gathered, and the

integrity of the report itself have contributed to the

continuing public debate over human rights issues in

Thailand. Human rights NGOs and activists, and many Thai

citizens, are gratified at the U.S. support for human rights

that this report represents. The MFA has been lobbying for

months against a harsh HRR on Thailand, and this year\’s

report has also introduced an element of tension into the

bilateral relationship that we will have to deal with. End

Comment.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:41 am

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