„Der Spiegel“ Interviews Foreign Minister Kasit

NOTE: This post was originally published on July 16, 2010 in a series of guest blogger posts for Bangkok Pundit at AsianCorrespondent. During his diplomatic tour through Europe (previously mentioned here), foreign minister Kasit Piromya gave an interview to the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel. Some lines are familiar to observers of him like these:

SPIEGEL: What is your explanation for the protests?

Kasit: The Marxist-Leninist interpretation was used by some protest leaders to paint a picture of disparity in Thai society -- between the rich and poor, rural and urban areas -- to attract supporters. This notion has also been accepted by the leftist media around the world. (...)

SPIEGEL: How have the leaders succeeded in gaining so much support?

Kasit: The protest is coordinated, organized and financed by Mr. Thaksin and his people. It is not something that happened naturally like in other countries, where demonstrations are spontaneous, like in Greece.

"Interview With Thai Foreign Minister - 'I'm Not Going to Run Like Mr. Thaksin'", Der Spiegel, July 15, 2010

Kasit actually made some solid remarks about the lèse majesté law ("Of course it has been abused! (...) I must now go to court!") and also named "Ethics, and good governance issues" to be the problems of Thai politics, but on the other hand he blames Thaksin in every second answer, whether it's about the failed November 14 election date proposal by the government during the protests ("Mr. Thaksin refused it. And then he started to have this armed insurrection."), the alleged main cause of the red shirts ("to support [him], to bring him back to Thailand without having him serve the jail sentence he has received for corruption and conflict of interest while in office.") - Kasit apparently can not let go of the idea that Thaksin is the ultimate root of all things evil. He also took a jab at German history:

SPIEGEL: What do you think? Who shot the people, if not the army?

Kasit: Look at German history: What happened when Joschka Fischer was on the streets in Frankfurt? Wasn't there shooting at that time? It is also possible that the Red Shirts were shooting among themselves in order to pass the blame to the government.

Former German foreign minister Joschka Fischer was involved in the student movement of the 1960s that was protesting against the conservatism and ignorance towards its past of post-war Germany. The government at that time tried to counter this movement i.e. by using the media to form a public opinion against the students. Due to the over-reaction by the police the protests escalated and turned violent. Even though it initially failed to cause any short-term results, it had long-lasting effects and influence on German society and culture.

In the 1970s the remains of the students movements either disappeared or have taken a radical route that also partly resulted in the formation of the Red Army Fraction that took out several armed assaults and was known as the first domestic terrorist group. During the same time frame Fischer was a leading member of the radical "Putzgruppe" (cleaning squad) that took on the police in several street battles. In 2001, when Fischer just became foreign minster, pictures dating back to 1973 were published, which shows him clubbing a policeman. Fischer later regretted this but also denied claims that he endorsed the use of molotov cocktails against the police. (More in this NYT article)

Getting back to Kasit's original claim: Neither sides, the "Putzgruppe" or the police, have used firearms during the street battles. All in all this historic comparison seems odd to me, but this is not the first time he has shown his selective historical knowledge. Talking about German history, Kasit once more came up with another comparison:

SPIEGEL: There have been 18 military coups since 1932. Can you really call Thailand a democracy?

Kasit: That is a very unfair question. It takes a lot of time to become a full-fledged democratic society. We are struggling with ourselves. Having said that, despite the challenges we have faced, we have never deviated far from the road to democracy which is what the Thai people want. Look at Germany: How did you end up with Hitler?

There we have it, Godwin's law has been used here in full effect! It seems to me that for one reasonable statement and he is spilling at least two or three ill-advised rants that ruin everything, as previously witnessed at an event in the US earlier this year.

By the way, since he mentioned the criminal past of a foreign minister, what about Kasit's past? Oh, yeah right!