Press Release : Letter to TIME Magazine on the article “Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He’s Tightening His Grip” Published in the TIME Magazine’s 2 July 2018 Issue news3

Press Release : Letter to TIME Magazine on the article “Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He’s Tightening His Grip” Published in the TIME Magazine’s 2 July 2018 Issue

Following is Letter addressed to the editor of TIME Magazine on the article “Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He’s Tightening His Grip” published in the TIME Magazine’s 2 July 2018 issue. His Excellency General Prayut Chan-o-cha (Ret.) Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand gave an exclusive interview on 1 June 2018 to TIME Magazine.
 
Dear Editor,
 
Your article entitled “Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He’s Tightening His Grip”, which appeared in TIME Magazine’s 2 July 2018 issue, is such a great disappointment. The article was imbalanced, with twisted facts, and misled readers to a conclusion that misrepresented the underlying message and vision of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The article was clearly written with a preconceived notion to fulfil a premeditated agenda. The author selectively chose pieces of information from the interview to support the opposing views against the Prime Minister. This is demonstrated in the negative quotations from various NGOs or political factions, which do not reflect the current majority views in Thailand.
 
While the author sought to taint the Thai Government with various shortcomings, I wish to stress that the Government fully respects freedom of expression and believes that it forms a basic foundation of a democratic society. The author’s analysis that Thailand is undergoing a ‘permanent authoritarian regression’ is a gross exaggeration. It is in total disregard of Thailand’s steps taken towards a sustainable democracy in line with the Government’s declared Roadmap. 
 
In fact, since the current Government assumed office, positive international rankings and statistics have shown that economic and social reforms have materialised. The Government’s firm determination and commitment have generated tangible outcomes, while deeply rooted and difficult issues, such as human trafficking and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), are also being tackled. In addition, this Government is the first to declare human rights as a National Agenda. 
 
The Government aims to promote sustainable growth and development, through the 20-year national strategy that focuses on human resources development. The strategy is not, as the article misleadingly suggests, an instrument to prolong power, but is rather aimed at providing subsequent governments with clear guidelines for long-term planning and implementation of reform measures.
 
With the country’s strong fundamentals and a clear vision for the future, the Government has embarked on the policy of Thailand 4.0 and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) Project to transform Thailand into a value-based and innovation-driven economy. These efforts were warmly welcomed by our EU partners, as reflected in the recent successful visits of the Prime Minister to the UK and France. 
 
I should also like to point out that since 12 September 2016, the Government has terminated the use of the military court to try civilians for offences that were previously under the military court’s jurisdiction. The statistics quoted in your article are therefore no longer relevant under the current circumstances.  
 
In terms of engagement with our major partners, it was totally irrelevant to cite that there is a joint commercial arms factory in the province of Khon Kaen and to imply that there is a closer relationship between China and Thailand at the expense of the US. In fact, Thailand has not engaged solely with China, but this maintenance facility is one among many other infrastructure projects that Thailand has invited China, Japan and other countries to participate in. Thailand is celebrating 200 years of contacts with the United States this year. Although China is our largest trading partner, Thailand has always maintained a balanced relationship with all countries. 
 
Last but not least, the pseudonym ‘Little Sarit’, referred to by the author, is largely unknown to the Thai public at large, and truly irrelevant. The personalities and historical context of how the two leaders were brought up are different. In fact, the Thai people have fondly coined a popular nickname for the Prime Minister as ‘Uncle Tu’, which reflects his approachable personality and openness, as an uncle would be towards members of the family. 
 
I certainly hope that you will publish this letter in order to provide your readers with a fair and balanced perspective of Thailand, and simultaneously to achieve the professional standard of journalism which TIME Magazine seeks to retain.
 
Yours sincerely,
Busadee Santipitaks
Director-General of the Department of Information
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand