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Military needs to step warily along a tricky path

Publication Date : 01-06-2014

 

How the Thai coup leaders handle the initial phase after the coup is extremely important because what they do at this juncture will affect the future of the country for an unforeseeable time.

In this respect, free and fair media coverage is essential. If they are not happy or unable to handle criticism or tough questions, which reporters generally throw out following a wishy-washy answer, perhaps they should have had a second thought before launching the coup.

If the Army strongly believes in what it is doing or what it has done, it should have the political courage to defend its action and whatever policies it plans to announce. Intimidation and silencing the press is not the answer.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the name this current junta has given themselves, could really use a crash course on anxiety control and media relations.

The upcoming interim government needs to understand that it will have to have a solid communicator to deliver messages and clarify misunderstandings with the international community, the local and foreign media, and so on.

It need not look for an easy way out and revert to the longstanding line: "You no understand. You are farang." If that's the case, then the Rolex salesmen on Silom Road could do the job that the NCPO is doing.

Being the head honcho of the NCPO, General Prayuth Chan-ocha needs to rise to the occasion and learn how to engage with the public and understand that the media could be his best medium for conveying his messages to the public.

Just don't hoodwink them or take them for a ride because they will never forgive you. Of course, there are journalists out there who don't mind getting a free ride. Their motto has long been "Where there is free food, there's free press."

Prayuth can appoint a spokesperson but as the head of junta, he will have to manage his own media affairs.

Talking about strategy is easy. Perhaps the most difficult part is the thinking that goes behind each of these strategies. An example of such "thinking" - or lack of it - was the idea of setting up "reform centres" that was tossed out a couple of days ago by the Internal Security Operation Command (Isoc).

The "reform centres", to be set up across the country, are meant to serve as places to teach the political opponents to live with each other peacefully.

Isoc spokesman Colonel Banphot Poonpien said General Prayuth wants this reconciliation process to begin at the family level and later expand to villages, tambons, districts and provinces. And they could do it at these centres.

There is nothing wrong with the idea, however. Reconciliation is what this country needs. But the military is not exactly a fair broker; they are a stakeholder. The military is fooling itself if it thinks it has the moral authority to do this.

Reconciliation cannot come from military directives. It has to be a national effort and the military must be part of it, not the sole driver of it.


 

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