• Opinion: The Real Message in Army Chief’s Tirade

    Was it a pep talk, a military psy-op, a lecture, or a paranoid rant on an epic scale that we witnessed from army chief Gen. Apirat Kongsompong last Friday?

    It depends on whom you ask, but Apirat was apparently concerned about young Thais, and he seems to have failed to convince them.

    “Let me ask students if one day a disappointed person incite you, use propaganda to mess with your brain to come out onto the streets like in Hong Kong. Will you come out?” Apirat said.

    The answer from Twitter users, who are mostly young generation was loud and clear. Within hours by Saturday hashtag #redbuffalo was trending to the with over 226,000 tweets. You see, Apirat’s nickname is Daeng, or red in Thai, and to compare someone to a buffalo is akin to calling the person dumb. It’s also dehumanizing.

    On conservative Nation TV, however, a poll among the viewers showed 97 percent support for Apirat’s speech which touched on threats of Communism, sabotage against the monarchy, and dangers from political parties supported by the youth like the Future Forward.

    If 97 approval rating is not enough, one of Apirat’s friend-cum-sycophants, Chuwit Kamolvisit, a massage-parlor-king-turned-politician-turned-TV-talking-head, gave him a score of 100.

    But even a perfect score could not hide his incoherence and confusion.

    In his 90-minute speech, Apirat attacks some Thais for holding onto Communist ideology while also attacking Joshua Wong, the young Hong Kong protest leader who took a stand against the Communist regime in mainland China.

    Was Apirat aware that the threat of Communism, including anti-Communist laws, have been obsolete and abolished for decades now.

    Was Apirat also aware of the cordial relations between Thailand and the biggest and most powerful Communist state on earth – China?

    Did he recall that three years ago, it was his boss, Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha who publicly advised his Cabinet to read Chinese Communist leader Xi Jinping’s book “The Governance of China,” and who went as far as saying that the book is “suitable” for Thailand?

    Apirat can’t seem to make up his mind if he is truly for, or against Communism.

    What’s clear, however, is Apirat tried to revive Cold War fear of Thai monarchy being at risk. He needs the royalists to fear, to develop ideological insecurities. This is how he hopes to unite and rally his support base – possibly in the event of another military coup, which he infamously refused to rule out.

    Whether you agree or laugh at what Apirat said for an hour and a half last week, it’s clear that the army will not return to the barracks, even though it’s been six months after the general elections that supposedly “restored” civilian rule.

    The army chief – whose late father Gen Sunthorn Kongsompong led a coup in 1992 – doesn’t feel or think he has overstep his duty by attacking political parties and feeding the public with his fear mongering doctrine.

    In a democracy, and even in a Communist state like China, the army chief doesn’t have the authority to talk politics. If last Friday’s spectacle took place in those countries, the army commander would have faced disciplinary actions, if not an immediate dismissal.

    But Thailand, even after the elections, is still a militarized Thailand. There is no remorse or a sign of self-awareness from Apirat that he conducted himself unprofessionally.

    Forget what he said, his arrogance is one of the most serious threats Thai democracy is facing. Apirit’s rant was in essence the army’s show of superiority over civilian affairs, which made the need to send the military back to the barracks and have its influence contained all the more urgent.

    And as long as that goal is still not achieved, democracy and civil liberty will continue to be at risk from military men in power like Apirat, even if his mind is so confused and incoherent. That is the real lesson we can learn from the whole debacle.


  • Opinion: Social Media as Thailand’s Public Sphere of Last Resort

    After sending me messages that he has deactivated his Facebook page because he received a warning as a result of criticizing a recent royal motorcade, I rang up the young political activist.

    The activist, who asked not to be named, is known for being critical of the monarchy on Facebook and is usually rather cocky – a political exhibitionist.

    But now, he sounded fearful.

    The man pulled the plug off Facebook on Thursday night after receiving an SMS claiming to be from the palace.

    “Please delete all your social network accounts by tonight for your safety,” the English-language message reads. There is no available phone number to call back, only the ominous sender’s identification as “Royal Thai Palace.”

    Such method was never deployed before, I told him on the phone, and therefore its usage is really dubious.

    Normally either the police or soldiers will contact you by phone or in person for infringements against the lese-majeste law. Then there is the issue of the language. Why English? And why no number to call back? Also, the office is known as the Royal Household Bureau in English, not “Royal Thai Palace.”

    Thus, I think it’s fake and from an imposter, not the Royal Household Bureau and suggested he to go to his mobileservice provider to check the number of the sender, or just call the Royal Bureau Household for verification.

    However, he didn’t commit himself and told me his lawyers told him to lie low for the meantime.

    “I think you are being taken for a ride. It’s most likely a bluff from [Thai] social media users who are out to scare you and create a climate of fear,” I told him.

    I tried to contact the Royal Household Bureau several times, but with no luck as of press time (a palace official told Prachatai website he hasn’t heard of the message, and suggested that it’s probably a hoax).

    While I think it’s most likely an impostor sending him the SMS as a bluff, his fear was real. And the climate of fear in critically speaking your mind about the monarchy is very real.

    As we were winding down our conversation on the phone Friday afternoon, the activist told me a brief SMS message in English without number was sent to him just now.

    “Thanks for your cooperation,” it read.

    This came after a few days of netizens, particularly Twitter users, airing their anger at traffic woes caused by a royal motorcade on Tuesday which forced many roads and intersections to shut down during rush hour.

    A Twitter hashtag in Thai-language #RoyalMotorcade quickly trended on Wednesday and reached a height of over 716,000 tweets by Thursday morning.

    Those affected said they were stranded in traffic for nearly an hour. Some said they saw police instructing an on-duty ambulance to turn off the siren. One such Tweet, from user @peeoioixx was retweeted 63,900 times as of Friday afternoon despite the user having just 1,261 followers.

    While it’s not clear which member of the royal family was travelling on Tuesday, what’s clear is the wrath expressed by the anonymous netizens – many using avatars on Twitter and Facebook.

    Some feel invisible and unrestrained by the draconian lese-majeste law because they feel they cannot be easily identified on Twitter and won’t be held accountable.

    The activist who contacted me used his real name and family name on Facebook, however. He is fairly well-known among political activists and beyond.

    If anything, the fact that the mainstream media simply censored themselves from reporting about the incident only made social media the only option for people to vent out their frustration.

    The incident reminds us that in Thailand, certain topics cannot be publicly deliberate without severe risks.

    It also tells us that many are now taking the risks to express critical views about the monarchy anonymously on social media.

    Social media has become Thai public sphere of last resort to discuss what most of the mainstream mass media won’t even dare consider.


  • Opinion: Why Hasn’t the Greta Thunberg Effect Hit Thailand?

    Why do some people feel so threatened by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg?

    One part of the answer is that she’s just 16, with no formal expertise on what she believes to be impending global climate catastrophe and mass extinction.

    Patriarchy and paternalism were turned upside-down when Thunberg began to take time off school to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament every Friday in August last year.

    This week saw Thunberg, who inspired school climate strikes in major cities around the globe, including Bangkok, be invited to speak at the UN Climate Action Summit – or rather, in the eyes of some, to preach, frown and even lash out at world leaders.

    There are those who say she is aggressive, a climate fundamentalist that sees things in black and white, and will make unnecessary enemies with her approach.

    But say all you want about Thunberg. The discussion about climate change that has been generated by this girl, who has over two million followers on Twitter, is spreading faster than the Amazon fire.

    There is something about being a child. It’s children and the child in us adults that dare to dream idealistically – unweighted by cynicism, not jaded by years of disappointment, and not limited by our professional and domestic demands.

    The value of keeping the child in our adult hearts alive cannot be overlooked, for without it there will be little passion left for thinking beyond one’s comfort zone. Thunberg dares to dream and act, while many adults have become too cynical and lethargic in the face of borderless problems such as climate change.

    Alas, so far Thailand is feeling little impact from the Greta Thunberg effect. Last Friday, when Bangkok held its Climate Strike protest, only 150 or so showed up, mostly expats and foreign students with signs in English. When it comes to climate change, Thailand seems stuck in a gigantic, single-use plastic bubble.

    Thunberg reportedly convinced her parents to become vegan and give up flying in order to reduce their carbon footprints. In contrast, many Thai vegans are only vegan because they want to go to heaven, to be reincarnated into a good life, or because they pity the animals. Few think about their carbon footprint.

    Thunberg has dragged many adults around the world out of their comfort zones, but the bubble in Thailand seems almost impenetrable. Not only are children still being treated as children here. Even adults are infantilized in a land where political leaders think they know best and simply expect citizens to comply.

    It will probably take the city turning into a waterworld metropolis before adult Bangkokians start acting.


  • Opinion: A Growing Paranoia in Buddhist Thailand

    Despite over 93 per cent of Thais being Buddhist, some are feeling threatened and even convinced by a conspiracy that Buddhism is under attack, largely from Muslims.

    Muslims constitute less than five per cent of the Thai population, but that hasn’t stopped the insecurity and paranoia of hardline Buddhists from overcoming them.

    A group calling itself “Buddhist Power of the Land” hit the news last week. They accused a female art student – a Buddhist, by the way – of sabotaging the religion by painting a number of Buddha images with the body of Ultraman, a popular Japanese superhero character.

    Perception is reality for the group, which decided to withdraw charges against the artist of religious sabotage – whatever that means – which accused the student of being paid to destroy Buddhism through such paintings.

    “The student was paid to do this. That’s her business. But now we know there’s a large network conspiring to destroy Buddhism. Now that we know this much information, the police must expand their investigation,” group representative Pattachan Vichientrat told Khaosod English.

    The group went as far as to claim that anti-Buddhist elements have infiltrated the bureaucracy and the entire country.

    “I can assure you, if we don’t rise up right now, within the next four years Buddhists will be second class citizens,” Pattachan said.

    As a non-Muslim, non-Christian and technically a Buddhist myself, I find it very disturbing that there are people who feel insecurity despite the fact that an overwhelming percentage of Thais call themselves Buddhists.

    Imagine the poor student coerced by the governor of Nakhon Ratchasima to apologize for creating her work as part of an art exhibition.

    It’s not enough that nine out of 10 Thais consider themselves Buddhists. These radical ‘Buddhists’ still feel insecure. Their insecurity is ironically very un-Buddhist as they seem not to understand the concept of non-attachment and impermanence.

    Instead of being paranoid about an anti-Buddhist conspiracy, more Thai Buddhists could do well to spend time and energy reflecting on how a lot of Thai Buddhists have strayed far from the path of Dhamma.

    Get-rich-quick Buddhist amulets, popular monks issuing lucky lottery numbers, bribes offered at temples and shrines in exchange for the possibility of being granted Arabian magic lamp-like wishes, and temple donations as a down-payment for a better reincarnation – all this is so far removed from the teachings of Lord Buddha.

    Nothing can undermine Buddhism in Thailand more than the fact that many Buddhists engage in extremely un-Buddhist activities. Many people who call themselves Buddhists, for example, support capital punishment.

    At the same time, Buddhism has been co-opted by the state, and many monks are obsessed with obtaining higher monastic titles.

    Others run their temples increasingly like business ventures by building outlandish and gigantic Buddha statues to attract worshippers and donation money.

    It’s not just fringe groups like “Buddha Power of the Land” that are paranoid; the Thai state appears to become increasingly paranoid as well.

    Earlier this week, former National Human Rights commissioner Angkhana Neelapaijit, who is Muslim, disclosed a letter issued by Special Branch Police asking an unidentified university president to engage in profiling of Muslim students.

    A police spokesman told me after the news broke that the requests were made to a number of universities but wouldn’t reveal the names and number of institutions. They said it’s normal intelligence gathering. Prime Minister Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha has defended the program.

    This is not just a violation of religious rights. It will sow a seed of distrust between Muslims and the state, if not between Muslims and Buddhists as well. People who purport to be true followers of the faith should be concerned about such a development, instead of succumbing to their self-induced paranoia.


  • Opinion: Why Do Some Thais Support China Over Hong Kong Protests?

    Among Thais who recently accuse Hong Kong protesters of harboring hatred towards their own nation was senior Democrat Party member Warong Dechvigrom.

    With images of some protesters waving union jack or the star and stripes flags with placards containing messages like “Please Liberate Hong Kong” spread around the globe, Warong said on Facebook last Friday that some Hong Kong protesters have forsaken their Chinese roots and hate their own nation.

    “The longer it goes on, the image is that of [people who] hate their own nation, causing havoc and who forget their own national roots,” Warong wrote on Facebook.

    What needs to be reminded time and again is that as much as there is no single way to be Thai, there is also no single way to be Chinese.

    Hong Kongers want freedom and democracy and they can be Chinese as well as Taiwan, which has proven to be a successful model of a Chinese democratic society.

    What is so Chinese about being a pseudo communist state and a real dictatorship as Communist China is today? Are Chinese who support dictatorial China more Chinese than say those who subscribe to Chinese philosophy of Taoism which advocates a more anarchistic and detached way of life?

    There is basically no single way to be Chinese or Thai. We would be fooling ourselves to not acknowledge that there’s always multiple ways to be Thai or Chinese and often people compete to define what is Thai or Chinese at the expense of other competing models.

    The irony is that some Thais who profess to love and revere the monarchy and Buddhism are now supporting a communist dictatorship state to crack down on its own people for merely calling for liberty and basic democracy. That Warong himself identified with a political party called “Democrat” party makes it doubly ironic.

    That some protesters are calling for help from the US and its former colonial master the UK didn’t help, however.

    It strikes a chord with Thais who believe that the West have always been interfering in Thai domestic politics, during the Cold War, which was true, and beyond, which is debatable, as their influence is waning.

    To them, they now prefer or at least feel more comfortable with Chinese dictatorship since it’s less of a blatantly interventionist superpower or at least she knows how to save Thai face or not offend it.

    The Chinese are not forcing their ideologies into your mouth. They are not zealous preachers, because they don’t care what political system you have because it’s only money that counts.

    These days, you can even pick up copies of China Daily at some of the local Starbucks in Bangkok for free.

    “China helping world to create shared future,” reads a propaganda front-page headline of Tuesday August 20 edition of the global edition of China Daily at my local Starbucks. It adds that President Xi’s thoughts on diplomacy has opened new vistas and achieved new progress.

    Another reason why some Thais can’t wait to see China cracking down on Hong Kong protesters is because these Thais have become conservative, and they value “national security” and stability above all. They see what’s happening in Hong Kong as being a threat against such mindset.

    National security, peace, and order at any price – this has become a dominant ideology among many conservative Thais.

    In this case they see the Chinese model as model to emulate or at least accept. It is an unfortunate state of affairs as Thailand move closer and closer under Chinese orbit of influence and at risk of becoming a satellite state of China while Thais are still struggling for genuine democracy and greater liberty.

    We need a more democratic neighbor not less. Rooting for Hong Kong to become less democratic won’t be helpful.


  • Opinion: TM30 Alienating Law-Abiding Aliens

    BANGKOK — Imagine yourself an expat in a country dubbing itself as amazing but every time you travel from one province to another for longer than 24 hours you must report to police within 48 hours of arrival in the new place because you are an alien.

    Amazingly restrictive, burdensome isn’t it? Welcome to Thailand 2019!

    Whether one thinks it makes sense or not, Thai immigration police is enforcing this online application form requirement for all foreign expats in Thailand.

    Commander of Bangkok immigration police Pol Maj Gen Patipat Suban na Ayudhaya insists this is for the safety of both foreigners and Thais.

    “We will try our best to distinguish between the good guys and bad guys. I promise all of you: We try,” Patipat told the jam-packed mostly frustrated western audience at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Thursday evening.

    To be fair, the law has been around since 1979, during the height of the Cold War that is. Immigration police are now just enforcing on expats while tourists are spared because hotels fill up this form called TM30 for the travelers.

    Expats must do it in person or online but they say the application is slow and it took some as long as five weeks to merely get a login password.

    Patipat’s man immigration superintendent Pol Col Thatchapong Sarawanangkul insisted that was nothing wrong with the online app, however.

    Nevertheless, Thatchapong admitted he has to work until 10pm every night with no holiday although his wife is delivering their baby by the end of this month.

    In an additional clear admittance that Bangkok immigration police force is ill-equipped to handle the controversial online form, Patipat added that there are only 10 officers handling the online app verification.

    Basically they have to check each online report, one by one, if it’s authentic or not, in the hope of spotting potential ‘alien criminals’ bent at committing crimes in Thailand.

    This may be a noble goal but let us pause and think for a second if any potential alien criminals would be foolish enough to simply submit genuine details of their latest where about in order to wait for the Thai immigration police to arrest or deport them?

    So while the chance of catching the bad guys from the TM30 immigration form is very slim, the majority of the expats in Thailand, the so-called good aliens bear the brunt of the inconvenience and feel stifled. It’s as if Thailand is turning into a police state for the largely law-abiding expats.

    This is what the TM30 has accomplished so far and mounting damage growing on a daily basis and more are thinking whether it’s worth the trouble of living in Thailand.

    Instead of making law-abiding expats feel most welcomed and more at home so Thailand can boost its economy and enrich its culture and society, the new pedantic TM30 immigration form have alienated hundreds of thousands of law-abiding aliens.

    When something makes no sense it should be done away it. For decades the regulation wasn’t imposed although it was the law. It’s not too late to do that again before the law ends up causing more problems than it solves.

    TM30 is an unnecessary waste of time and resources in the name of national security. Such pedantic and restrictive rules belongs not to a nation wanting to attract more foreign expats and investments but one which seeks to alienate more and more law-abiding aliens.


  • Opinion: The Double Denial of Sex Work in Thailand

    Emboldened by new police protocols mandating more humane treatment of sex workers during arrests, activists on Thursday announced their next goal – decriminalizing sex work.

    Prostitution is illegal under the 1996 Anti-Prostitution Act, though it’s rare for sex workers to be sentenced to the maximum one-month prison term stipulated under the law. Instead, the red-light industry thrives in a grey area, regulated more consistently by mainstream morality which shames sex work and corrupt officials who extort protection money.

    Sex workers and activists scored a victory Thursday when the national police released new protocols banning sexual intercourse during sting operations, parading sex workers in front of the press, and allowing reporters inside raided venues. Also banned are stamps on the passports of foreign sex workers specifying that they were arrested for prostitution. The reforms came after years of repeated complaints and demands by advocacy groups and the National Human Rights Commission.

    But the fact that no major political party is committed to decriminalizing sex work is a sober reminder to sex workers and activists that the road to legalizing sex work will be a lonely struggle. This is despite the fact that there are up 300,000 sex workers in Thailand – a large constituency.

    No major political party wants to be branded as immoral or as pushing for a policy that would shame the Kingdom. Never mind the reality that prostitution is a major underground industry.

    Decades ago in 1993, Longman’s Dictionary of Contemporary English defined Bangkok as “a place where there are a lot of prostitutes,” which was greeted by nothing short of a national uproar that resulted in the banning of the dictionary. Many Thais don’t seem to care about reality. It’s the façade of a fictitious alternate that counts.

    Nearly three decades after the Longman saga, Thai police shocked the world earlier this year when they inspected Pattaya’s infamous red-light district, known as Walking Street, and found not a single sex worker.

    It’s a paradoxical reality: the existence of widespread prostitution is formally denied, while it’s a commonly known reality that many foreign tourists come to Thailand for sex. Even the Public Health Ministry estimates that 75 percent of Thai males have bought sex.

    Some feel that deconstructing morality as a strategy to decriminalize prostitution is a losing battle. Veteran women’s rights activist Naiyana Suphaphueng warned after the release of the police protocols that it’s best not to confront society by challenging the prevailing moral standard.

    “Thai society doesn’t accept selling sex like selling objects…We should frame it by talking about human rights and protection first,” said Naiyana.

    She may be right, tactically speaking. Still, there is something very disturbing about morality that is based on the denial of reality. Thailand is a society in denial on so many levels, whether it’s about the lack of genuine democracy or the lack of substantial freedom.

    Many would rather not face the truth. Many would rather let sex workers suffer silently when exploited by an underground industry, so that Thais can continue to smile.


  • Opinion: Thailand’s Slippery Road of Political Hatred

    Just as worrying as the recent and second attack on anti-junta activist Sirawith “Ja New” Seritiwat is the gratification that has been expressed by some junta supporters.

    Despite the junta’s claims that it restored peace and order after the May 2014 coup, political hatred continues to fester on both sides of the political divide. Political hatred is eating up the hearts of many Thais, reducing them to beings that derive gratification from the suffering of those with whom they disagree politically.

    The dilemma facing Thais on both sides of the political divide is: will you choose to fight for your vision of an ideal society with love or hatred?

    Some have chosen hatred and are very vocal about their choice.

    “Good news,” wrote Facebook user Sirirat Panumas on Friday, along with a photo of Sirawith lying unconscious after four men attacked him with wooden clubs near his home in Bangkok last Friday, leaving him unconscious with a broken nose, fractured right eye socket, and blood flowing from his white shirt.

    “May I advise that his mother muzzle his mouth so he won’t have to be attacked again,” wrote Facebook user Sirirat Panumas.

    “When will it be these two’s turn?” asked Facebook user Akkarawat Pon Jirawatthanakul, along with photos of two well-known anti-junta student activists, Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal and Parit Chiwarak, and seven laughing emojis.

    Top: Junta supporters on a Facebook thread saying they hope two other activists will be assaulted like Sirawith. 

    When I tweeted about the attack, Twitter user @guantanamo___ asked in response when my turn will come too, followed by 50 in-tears-laughing emojis.

    So far, no one has been arrested for Ja New’s beating. In any case, it’s clear that the problem is larger than the attacks on three anti-junta activists in recent weeks. The public and shameless expressions of schadenfreude that have followed are very alarming.

    Rather than hatred for those who disagree politically, there is another path that Thais can take, which is to fight for their vision of an ideal society with love – be it for justice, freedom, democracy, equality or whatever else.

    Phalang Pracharath MP Parina Kraikup warns that her critics may end up punched in the face like Sirawith.

    Political hatred corrodes one’s humanity. It also corrodes the humanity of others. Once you start hating your political opponents, you start to see them as less than human.

    Although I have been detained without charge and made to undergo “attitude adjustment”, and continue to face sedition charges for criticizing the junta, I have never harbored political hatred in my heart.

    I write out of love for freedom, truth, justice, democracy and equality, not out of hatred for junta leader Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha or the uniformed men who detained me.

    This is a personal choice, however. Some think Thais are not angry enough, and cite this as the reason the junta has remained in power, introduced a less-than-democratic constitution and got away with a sham election.

    On Monday, Prayuth still had the audacity to make a thinly-veiled threat to stage another coup if all doesn’t go well with the formation of his cabinet.

    But won’t political anger lead to political hatred? The question reminds me of a European diplomat who last week compared Bangkok’s traffic woes to that of Cairo’s, observing that Egyptians have a very low tolerance for waiting while Bangkokians simply watch the traffic light calmly and passively.

    Some think that political anger doesn’t need to lead to political hatred, if the principle of non-violence is upheld. While I think that’s theoretically possible, I cannot help but fear that political anger is a slippery road.


  • Opinion: Goodbye The Nation Newspaper

    After almost 48 long years, The Nation is ceasing its print edition today.

    As someone who worked with the paper for 23 years before joining Khaosod English, it’s still an emotional day for me as a journalist. I worked there from 1992 until the management asked me resign in 2015, after the junta detained me without charge for the second time.

    Very little, if nothing, is permanent. Once upon a time, The Nation was unwavering in its defiance against military dictatorship, a bastion of committed journalism.

    During the uprising of May 1992 – which was my rookie year as a journalist at The Nation – it was one of three Thai newspapers which defied an order from the dictatorial regime of Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon to shut up or shut down after dozens of protesters were mowed down by soldiers in Bangkok.

    Pravit Rojanaphruk as a young reporter at The Nation in 1994
    Pravit Rojanaphruk as a young reporter at The Nation in 1994

    The editor at the time, Thepchai Yong, became the first Thai journalist to win the International Press Freedom Award from the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

    But after Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a coup in 2006, with the country mired in political divisions before another in 2014, The Nation at times served as an apologist for military rule.

    When The Nation’s president, Pana Janviroj, asked me to resign the day after I was released from being detained in September 2015, I quickly obliged. If serving the higher goal of defending press freedom from the junta was in conflict with the paper’s “brand”, as I was told, I was willing to leave. All the same, The Nation was like a second home for me.

    Ironically, two years later in 2017, I became the second Thai journalist to be given the very same International Press Freedom Award from the CPJ.

    In the last year of its print edition, after conservative media group T News took over, my former colleague Supalak Ganjanakhundee was appointed as editor and tried to steer the paper back towards a democratic and liberal path. But it was too late.

    The Nation coverage of the Black May uprising.

    I would love to remember The Nation as the paper which defied Gen. Suchinda and not as a paper which occasionally served as a coup apologist because of the deep hatred towards Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra, but it would be dishonest not to recognize both.

    Beyond the memories of having worked there for over two decades, it’s the realization that print newspapers – as supermarkets of news and entertainment that you can tangibly browse at leisure – are becoming less common, if not a dying breed.

    More people, particularly the young, now opt for reading along more narrowly-defined news categories online and on social media.

    Instead of having to browse through different pages, where you might stumble upon a story that you didn’t think you wanted to read, people now tend to only read what they want to read. I fear readers will become less generalist if we are no longer accidentally exposed to a variety of news items through the act of browsing print.

    But the market is dictating that a print newspaper such as The Nation is no longer a sustainable business model. Mainstream mass media has always taken pride in its role as a gatekeeper of news and information, a guardian of what is fit for print. Now traditional media has lost much of this role amidst burgeoning social media, citizen journalists, bloggers and social media influencers.

    On one hand, I think it is good for the public in general that traditional media is losing its grip on the power to determine the narrative of what is news and what is not. This development comes with the need, of course, for citizens to become more adept at differentiating accurate news from fake news and at calling propaganda out for what it is.

    Pravit’s last column at The Nation in September 2015

    While The Nation will maintain an online presence, three-quarters of the editorial staff will be laid off. I wish these former colleagues all the best in their future endeavors.

    The Nation, just like any news organization, is a team effort and not just a story of figures like co-founder Suthichai Yoon. Ordinary staff like house keepers, security guards and administrative staff deserved to be recognized as well. So many names could not be mentioned here, both Thai and foreign.

    As The Nation reduces itself to an online-only news website with a focus on lifestyle content, I hope it will continue to provide differing views about Thai affairs in English. But it will be up to those who remain and the site’s conservative owners to ensure its relevance.

    Farewell The Nation, the place where I learned to place the duty to serve the public above the newspaper. I am thankful to you.


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