The latest reports about exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s being wooed by other small and poor countries are becoming quite clear – the stories are almost certainly a hoax.
The Bahamas and Bermuda have denied granting any privileges to, or welcome for, Thaksin.
“As far as I know, I am not aware of any request, nor has any honorary citizenship been granted to [Shinawatra],” Brent Symonette, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs told The Nassau Guardian.
“I know nothing about it [the suggestion Thaksin could be headed there]. It’s absolutely not true,” Bermuda’s Premier Ewart Brown told Bermuda’s The Royal Gazette.
INN news agency was the first to report the stories about Thaksin. Since August, INN reported 13 stories about Thaksin on its website. All were positive news about the absconding former PM. However, when many countries denied their involvement, and some Thai media raised questions about the reports, INN issued a statement clarifying about the source of its information. However, some doubts remain.
Irrespective of whether Thaksin spread the stories in his interest, or others did it for him, the motive behind fooling Thais was to promote the image of how the fugitive was important in the eyes of other countries, if not in Thailand. Through such exposure he might arouse sympathy among Thais as well.
Choosing INN news agency as his mouthpiece was cunning though deceiving. INN has an audience of millions who would have received these Thaksin reports through SMS and radio news. And subscribers to SMS news and radio listeners don’t bother too much about details. Brief news items are enough to start discussions among colleagues and friends. They are not normally curious where the news comes from or whether it is true or not. Not infrequently, SMS reports are proved to be inaccurate.
Thaksin is a person who usually plays his games at the expense of others.
These stories about him have deceived Thais, who believed them. The falsehoods have also damaged the reputation of the countries, who it was falsely claimed had offered him refuge.
By The Nation
Published on November 18, 2008
INN explains Thaksin ‘asylum’ reports
INN news agency yesterday insisted it had “sincerely and professionally” reported news to its audience after its report about small countries offering help to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra were denied and questioned
In a statement posted on its website, www.innnews.co.th, INN said it would stick to the standard of good ethics and would not be a tool for anybody.
INN issued the statement after the media questioned the reported offer to Thaksin which turned out to be a hoax.
While it accepted the scrutiny and would reconsider its reporting process, the INN explained how it got the news about the offers to Thaksin.
The INN earlier reported that several countries like the Bahamas and Bermuda had offered asylum and positions to Thaksin while living in exile.
But the governments of both countries denied the report.
Thai media published articles questioning INN’s news sources after they failed to verify the INN report. They also questioned the timing of its release which coincided with Thaksin’s movements and statements in the past few months.
During his address on November 1, Thaksin told his supporters that many countries had offered him shelter and positions.
According to INN, the questionable reports were found accidentally by an INN reporter while searching for another topic on the Internet.
INN said the first piece, a story headlined as “Bermuda Prime Minister invites Thaksin into exile”, published on August 22, was found accidentally when INN’s reporter searched for news about a Bermudan football player of the Manchester City Football Club.
The reporter double checked the information from an encyclopaedia on the Internet about the country’s information and its prime minister’s name. They matched, so the reporter decided to translate the story into the agency’s database.
Since Thaksin’s movements have been a source of interest to Thai people, INN decided to publish the stories to its audience.
“Due to curiosity about Thaksin’s extradition process being an issue at that time, INN’s foreign news reporter searched information from prominent media like CNN, BBC, AP, AFP and visited the websites in the Bahamas and Bermuda where stories were found before. The website of ZNS Bahamas, which was not being upgraded at that time, had a piece of news published on October 16 saying Bahamas’ prime minister was seeking ways to help Thaksin. It was a 15 day old story but the reporter saw it interesting and decided to translate it,” INN said to clarify how it got the story headlined as “Bahamas asks UK not to send Thaksin back to Thailand” which it published on October 31.
The website of ZNS Bahamas has been posted as “being upgraded” for more than a week.
Pirongrong Ramasoota Rananand, head of Chulalongkorn University’s Department of Journalism, said when the media stressed the timeliness of news reporting, they might have compromised the accuracy of the news or reliability of news sources.
“Now is an era of information overload. Media professionals as gatekeepers or mediators must be more careful than in the past,” she said. “The rule is that check, check, check and check. The media must verify the information until they are sure it is correct.”
Pradit Ruangdit, secretary-general of Thai Journalists Association, yesterday said the issue was interesting as it scrutinised media professionals. However, the association would respect the rights of all media involved and would wait and see INN’s proof of its news sources.
By KORNCHANOK RAKSASERI
Published on November 18, 2008