Michael's Dispatches

Some Thoughts About The Kingdom of Thailand

img025-1000No journalists were afraid of the RTA. Soldiers were not committing atrocities. The RTA had nothing to hide. The Soldiers seemed to think that journalists were insane for walking around the battlefield like it was a park.

Some journalists were afraid of the Red Shirts, but not afraid of government personnel under Abhisit, because they knew that while Red Shirts might kill them, Abhisit would not.

The RTA would not shoot me, but I wondered about the Red Shirts.  The Men in Black surely would kill anyone that they perceived as a threat.  They were not as disciplined or as discriminating as the RTA.

img026-1000The press was on the job observing the RTA, but they often gave a pass to the Red Shirts. This is not to imply that the journalist in this image did so. I do not know him.

Journalists captured video of rioters using grenade launchers.

In one fight, someone put a laser on a RTA officer and someone else used it to kill him.

I saw Red Shirts with lasers.   I told journalists that if you see a laser illuminate you or the Soldiers around you, to run, as a 40mm grenade might be inbound.

A 40mm grenade will take perhaps five seconds to get to you (depending on how quickly the shooter can aim, and the range), and the kill radius of a 40mm grenade is small.  A few seconds of running can save you.  I carried an M79 Grenade Launcher when I was in the Army and I know it well.

img027-1000Journalists who ignored Red Shirt looting should be ashamed. Most Red Shirts were not looters and were embarrassed by it. But it happened. It should not be deliberately forgotten.

Most eyewitnesses to the incident say that the Men in Black did the killing.  Best friends make worst enemies.  They must be veterans.  That is my suspicion.  They were too good with their techniques and tactics to be untrained young men.

img028-1000The arson was grievous and shameful.

img029-1000Bangkok fighting

I did not see the Thai Army with grenade launchers.  Grenades came from the Red Shirts.  They fired them on civilians and the RTA.  This is a fact.

But to speak this fact aloud is sacrilegious.  It is a professional affront to hundreds of journalists who did not get the award-winning imagery of the RTA committing atrocities.

How can journalists, who accuse Mr. Abhisit and the RTA of murder, reconcile that hundreds of camera-toting journalists, and thousands of civilians, were completely free in the battle zone, yet nobody witnessed RTA atrocities?

World-class photographers were combing the field and nobody caught the fish.  Why?  Because it did not happen.

img030-1000It was dangerous to huddle with the RTA. Red Shirts fired at them.

Prime Minister Abhisit lost reelection, so he is now the leader of the opposition in Parliament.  Recently he was charged with murder.

This is wrong.

I said and wrote that this is wrong.   Today, critics accuse me of being buddies with Mr. Abhisit.

Photos of former Prime Minister Abhisit and me talking on an airplane from Bangkok to Hat Yai have appeared on the Internet.  That was the only day that I communicated with Mr. Abhisit.

We do not email each other.  I do not know his email address.  I have never been to his home.  We have never shared a coffee together.  We never talk on the phone.  We do not communicate directly or indirectly.  Mr. Abhisit and I are not friends.  I would be honored to know him, but the fact is that we are not buddies.

img031-1000Molotov cocktails in the Red Shirt camp. Think about the implications of this photograph. Who made them? For what purpose? How were they used? Those who were at the protest site know. We witnessed it.

I did not even write a dispatch about this trip.  Few people knew that I took it.  This upset some of my friends who thought that I should have written something, but Mr. Abhisit’s staff never said a foul word for the great access they afforded that day and on others, and they never criticized me for failing to write about my interview with the Prime Minister.

I did the same with US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on a couple of trips, many American and British generals, and other officials at the highest levels of the government of the United States.

Down in the dirt, I went on countless combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan with units that I never mentioned.  No slight was meant.

I thank everyone who entertained me at their expense for the education that has helped inform my views.  I cannot write the truth if I do not smell it.

It upsets some folks that I enjoy access and I do not exploit it and write a major dispatch every time that I have a coffee with a General, but for me it is often background.  I intend no arrogance with that statement.  In my line of work, I talk to many people.

And so, regarding the fighting in 2010, this circles back to criticism from detractors who claim that they belong to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand.

I contacted the Club for clarification after this criticism but I was not graced with a response.

I was invited to the Club.  I was very busy, and regretted that I could not attend.  Then the criticism began.

No slight or insult was intended.  But any member of the Club who did not write about the children in the Red Shirt camp, or the firebombs, does not have a professional stature. Cherry-picking facts is dishonest.  Ignoring that children were brought to the camp is complicity.

As for Mr. Abhisit, I have no interest in defending a murderer.  I do not believe that Mr. Abhisit is a murderer.  Based on my observations, my estimate of Mr. Abhisit is that he is a man of rules.

If I thought that there was truth to the allegations of murder, I would remain silent, unless I had evidence, in which case I would speak and lay out any evidence in my possession.

img032-1000Bangkok burns. Arson was dishonorable. Red Shirts did this.

Ironically, Mr. Abhisit was criticized for showing too much restraint.  His personal courage was widely demonstrated in his openness to the public.  The day that I accompanied Mr. Abhisit, he allowed normal citizens to walk up to him.  I asked his staff if this was normal.  They said yes, and that it worried them.  Mr. Abhisit is physically and morally courageous.

I have no evidence of RTA atrocities.

The Royal Thai Army conducted itself with honor during the Red Shirt protests.  Thai people should be proud to field such an Army.

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