Economist articles contrary to the facts

In a letter to 'Bangkok Post,' a director-general at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizes recent 'Economist' articles about the king of Thailand and the monarchy's role in the country's political crises

Bangkok Post
Saturday, December 13, 2008

I am deeply dismayed by The Economist's narrow views and condescending attitude. In trying to justify pre-supposed contentions, the double pieces ("The king and them" and "A right royal mess," Dec 4, 2008) choose to give credence to writing by one American journalist about the King of Thailand and interpret events to suit his unfounded conspiracy-prone speculations, while discarding important facts that prove otherwise.

More fundamentally, the articles ignore the very fact that each country evolves from background specific to itself, and that the bonds between Thai people and their kings are deeply rooted in the kingdom's centuries-long history.

Throughout his reign, the King has clearly demonstrated that he is above and not involved in politics, strictly adhering to the roles prescribed by law. His steadfast political neutrality adds to the weight of his words -- his moral authority, not political power. His intervention has been seldom and, when made, was meant to prevent further bloodshed among Thais, as in 1992; not to side with any groups.

Nevertheless, political groups and analysts alike seem to have taken pains to get him involved. Prior to the military intervention on Sept 19, 2006, when Thailand's political system seemed to have ground to a halt, a call was made for a royally-conferred government. The King, in his address to the judges in April that year, refused and said clearly that the problems must be resolved democratically and through constitutional means. Had he no faith in democracy, he could have done otherwise and Thais would have obliged. There is no need, as there never has been, for any behind-the-scenes intrigue, as alleged. The affection and reverence that Thais feel towards him is genuine and voluntarily shown, stemming as much from their appreciation of his lifelong devotion and hard work for the well-being of all Thais, as for his commitment to democracy. Yet, due to this, some groups have sought to make claims of royal support or interpret his action or silence for their own political ends.

Indeed, the King said in 2005 that he is not beyond criticism. But his position as being above politics does not allow him to respond to any political claims or allegations against him (unfortunately, including those made by the Economist) -- thus the raison d'etre for Thais to call for the so-called lese majeste law to protect their King.

Here is another omitted fact: in Thailand as in other democracies, laws are enacted by parliamentarians who respond to the will of the people they represent. By neglecting facts and simple logic like these, the articles blatantly make wrongful accusations regarding the Thai King and inexcusably offend Thais. They deserve our protest in the strongest terms.

Tharit Charungvat, Director-General, Department of Information and Spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand