This time last year, Thailand was in such a state of tumult that people didn’t even bother wishing each other a Happy New Year because they knew better than to hope for such an outcome.
Thais walked around slope-shouldered, shrugged and grunted – the joy snuffed out of their once beaming countenances by money politics and influences so dark they would need to wear neon-colored clothing to avoid being hit by motor vehicles at night.
There is no doubt that this situation has changed for the better since May when Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and his comrades held an intervention for democracy, just as you would for an out-of-control adult who uses drugs or, worse, gets drunk on the cheap promises of populist politics and heeds the sirens’ call of the ballot.
One would think by now that we would be celebrating a complete return to happiness, with more smiles per square meter than at a Thai air stewardess tryout session. Yet if we’re going to be painfully honest, we must admit that maximum happiness has yet to be achieved in Thailand and that occasionally you’ll still catch the odd frowner passing by on a bus or sweeping rubbish off the street.
How can we reconcile this disparity between the absolute best of intentions and such an inspiring outcome? The answer lies in the grubby work of so-called journalists who have made it their mission to undermine Prime Minister Prayuth’s happiness restoration and maximizing democratic excellence program at every turn.
Journalists comprise a nexus of negativity in our society. When one or more gather you are unlikely to hear a positive sentiment expressed (or a free drink refused). They harp most frequently on the strictures of censorship and systemic repression keeping them from their jobs.
Of course, we all know that if journalists were really serving the public good, the worst they would have to worry about at this time of year would be receiving one of the cheaper gift baskets from Tesco Lotus, not summary detention and arrest for publishing their balderdash.
Enter into this den of wolves of the written word, our humble Prime Minister, a career military man who has dedicated his life to selfless toil on behalf of a fully appreciative country and a man to whom the slandering, self-serving, gutter rolling world of the journalist is completely alien.
Like a patient father with a child the rest of society would like to smack, Prime Minister Prayuth has stood by patiently, gently nudging the media on rare occasions and offering the kind of wisdom that is the fruit of self-sacrifice and right thinking.
Of course, those practicing “journalism” in this country, both the Thais disgracing their birthplace and the foreigners who have yet to unfasten their parachutes, have remained indolent.
In 2015, action is needed and standards must be set and adhered to. Here are an initial five points of action which must be incorporated immediately into a revamped journalistic code of ethics for Thailand.
1. Let the government point out which corruption stories to follow.
Prime Minister Prayuth’s primary motivation in taking part in the May Merriment Movement was to root out the systemic corruption which has plagued this country and costs it untold billions of baht every year. As such, his administration is in the best position to judge which cases of corruption are worthy of attention. The last thing this country needs is for rogue media outlets to start trying to look at salary earnings versus net worth of people we already know have the country’s best intentions at heart.
2. Do not drag the sacred institution into this.
Of course, the sacred institution so sacred that we cannot get into any specifics here for fear of lowering ourselves to the level of those whose standards we are trying to raise with these guidelines. As a rule of thumb, if the person or persons you are thinking about covering regularly stop city traffic – literally, not metaphorically because they’re good looking – then you should immediately stop.
3. Keep your head at belt level or below while in the General’s presence.
Late last year, some confusion arose over a video that showed the general patting the head of a reporter at a press scrum as if he were stroking a dog with a really lustrous coat. Most Thai citizens, however, understood the body language involved in this friendly “phi-nong”. Indeed, viewed from the Thai cultural perspective, for someone working as a journalist to have a scratch behind the ear and perhaps be slipped the odd biscuit by the leader of the country is a major life moment.
4. Quit trying to sully our reputation abroad.
Thailand is renowned as a paradise of cultural delights, scenic splendor, and bounteous smiles. Sensationalistic “gotcha” journalism focusing on such trifles as the odd foreigner taking one back step too many off his high-storey balcony, or the so-called “breakdown of the rule of law and total lack of accountability for those with deep pockets”, as some wags would dub it, is not a part of this narrative.
5. Avoid topics that may raise blood pressure.
Thailand’s population is ageing and if journalists are truly operating with the best interests of the public at heart, they should avoid broadcasting upsetting news lest old Grandpa Somchai be sent to that to that Great Noodle Stand in the Sky after reading some piffle about a cavorting monk or a general’s all-teak mansion on protected park land. A good journalist should always be trying to limit the topics he discusses in his work so as not to upset people.
We encourage you to add to this list, but here are some taboo subjects to get you started: The Man in Dubai (unless otherwise instructed – consult your nearest man in uniform and in a nice car); the judicial system; evening soap operas; scions in sports cars; illegal logging; Chavalit; national finance; the education system; our government’s embrace of North Korea; The Voice talent show; anything to do with any place along the country’s borders; and Thai food being prepared by foreigners.