One is not amused.
One is not amused.
- By BK staff
- | Jul 09, 2018
Following Time Magazine’s Asia edition cover story on prime minister Prayut Chan-ocha, Thailand’s military government has sent its official response to Time's editor. Unsurprisingly, the junta wasn’t impressed by writer Charlie Campbell's portrait of their leader.
Signed off by Busadee Santipitaks, director general of the Department of Information, the letter from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the Time story as “a great disappointment,” before going on to say: “The article was imbalanced, with twisted facts, and misled readers to a conclusion that misrepresented the underlying message and vision of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.”
Note some of the language there—”twisted facts.” While the letter (which you can read in full below) takes aim at the intentions of Campbell, it finds little grounds to challenge him on facts.
Titled "Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He's Tightening His Grip," the Time article drew on Prayut's own quotes and military spending behavior to paint a picture of a nation strengthening ties with China at a time when America "seems less committed than ever to smaller regional allies like Thailand."
Despite the junta's concerns, some of Campbell's article commends Prayut's work. “Since 2014, Prayuth has returned Thailand to relative strength,” writes Campbell. “Under the junta’s watch, GDP growth has risen to 4%, exports are at a seven-year high and a record 35 million tourists thronged Thailand’s beaches and temples in 2017. Infrastructure projects, like the $45 billion Eastern Economic Corridor of ports, railways and factories southeast of Bangkok, have been greenlighted.“
Other parts, however, would have made tough reading for a regime that has often tried to silence criticism. Campbell reveals that one nickname for Prayut is “Little Sarit,” after Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who seized power through a putsch in 1957 and helped raise the monarchy to its paramount role in Thai society.”
While failing to dispute the nickname, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ letter instead describes it as “largely unknown to the Thai public at large,” and highlights Prayut’s more family-friendly sobriquet, “Uncle Tu.”
Another section of the article describes Prayut as “tone-deaf to the peoples’ [sic] woes. He hosts a weekly television show on which he bemoans the country’s ills and offers baffling remedies. To tackle poverty, he advised ‘working harder.’ To avoid debt, he proposed 'not going shopping.' He has complained of ‘black magic’ and ‘curses’ from opponents. On one rural outreach mission, he was photographed talking to a frog.”
Don't go looking for a copy of the magazine in your nearest Kino. The issue was marked as “inappropriate” for Thailand and never received distribution here (though it was never blocked online and can be read in full here). Time also published the full transcript of Campbell’s one-on-one interview with Prayuth here.
In Thailand, the article has spawned a new pastime for creating comedy memes of the Time cover, many of which can be found in replies to popular satire blog Khai Maew’s own Time meme here:
Read the full Minsistry of Foreign Affairs response below: