Reporting politics Pattaya and Phnom Penh style

A Tale Of Two Cities

Bangkok Diary June 26 2012

I don’t know the Mayor of Pattaya Ittiphol Khunpleum although I have met him a couple of times. But I guess I should congratulate him on his recent re-election for yet another 4 year period in office – thus keeping local politics in the family.

I don’t know who he was standing against either, nor would I ever I guess had I been a subscriber of the Danish controlled Pattaya People or the American controlled Pattaya Times ’newspapers’.

These newspapers have fawning way of informing their foreign readers about local politics. Don’t worry about giving the other side. In fact don’t bother printing any opposition interviews or manifestos. That way you don’t have to mention who else is actually standing in opposition.

I don’t think journalism is taught this way in Knoxville, Tennessee or Copenhagen but I guess, if they plug the mayor and not mention the opposition, they may think they will gain brownie points.

Both waxed lyrical about Khun Ittiphol, whom I am assured is a smart cookie and thus not daft enough to bother what is in either newspaper. Nevertheless after garnering a less than withering 20,000 votes, (most people stayed at home) against an opposition 2,000+ Khun Ittiphol still went on a victory parade throughout Pattaya, as in cup final day.

I also could not find the opposition candidates in the Pattaya Daily News, but did find some info in the Pattaya Mail and on Pattaya One news, though I’m still hungry.

But are local politicians courting the foreign language press in Pattaya – as the British Labour and Conservative parties did with Rupert Murdoch?

Certainly not. Do you think Tony Blair read ‘Il Iberico’ or the Polish Observer in his election run up?

In one way this is all good news and the foreign editors should be congratulated. The Pattaya People has endorsed the Mayor. This is Pattaya realpolitik!”

‘Eradicate Walking Street!’

A major point in Khun Ittiphol’s 14 point plan for Pattaya, unless he has had last minute thoughts, is the ‘eradication of Pattaya’s red light venue – Walking Street’.

So the endorsement by the CEO of the Pattaya People, himself a former ‘operator’ in Copenhagen who was sentenced to jail there for offences of violence, dishonesty, and living off immoral earnings, again marks a massive turn around on the Pattaya People swing-ometer towards law and order….even though the editor of another newspaper tried to put in a bid for bar equipment including chrome poles at a local auction house.

I take it the Mayor (left) does not mean the literal demolition of Walking Street. I think he means to turn it into some sort of Covent Garden, Champs Elysees, Via Veneto,  Stroget,  Kurfurstendamn, or Greenwich Village,  so tattooed foreigners on steroids and kamagra can view the talent while daintily sipping espressos by the side of the boulevard.

Here below is Khun Ittiphol’s full 14 point plan for Pattaya.  Of course in Thailand these things take time, lots of it.

This manifesto  was first published in 2008. Perhaps a local can spot the changes.

1.Environmental improvement – not specified but it must be No2 2, 5, 6,7,9 & 11.

2  The implementation of an effective water supply for the city and Koh Larn (Coral Island)

3. Education – a 12-year free education system

4. Housing -low-cost housing for low income groups

5.  Traffic -a new, improved traffic system

6. A tramline transportation system

7.   Flood prevention

8.  Job opportunities to decrease poverty

9. Sex  -the eradication of Pattaya’s red-light venue – Walking Street.

10. Drugs:  -the establishment of a drug-observation and prevention centre.

11.  The encouragement of ecotourism

12. The construction of a sports centre.

13.  The establishment of a tourism festival.

14.  The encouragement of world-class entertainment

I have just come back from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where you can actually sit on the boulevard, sip cheap wine, or espressos, and view the talent parade in front of you every evening as it gathers itself for a stroll along the side of the Phnom Penh River.

I love Phnom Penh. I am praying it’s not going to change. My prayers will be ignored.

My view across the river had already destroyed by this monstrosity – a giant Sokha hotel being built on the opposite bank.

I was actually there for the arrest of Patrick Devillers, a Frenchman who has been linked to the murder of Briton Neil Haywood in China. Well I was not there for the arrest. That was done in secret. His whereabouts were also kept in secret from the public – as France and China – fought over him.

‘Hop off you Frogs!’

So Devillers was not up for interview. Had he been so, however, I think he would have preferred the option of giving an interview with ‘La Monde’ or ‘Liberation’ rather then an anglais debilé from the ‘Daily Mail’.

The French and the English still do not get on, despite endearing and reconciliatory headlines in the London Sun such as ‘Hop off you frogs!’ whenever the French displease the editors.

The only newspaper to have done an interview with him was the ‘New York Times’. The interview consisted of him saying he was not giving an interview, quoting a Chinese proverb, and complaining about the press.

I do not think wearing a kilt and claiming to be ‘un écossais’ and quoting ‘L’auld alliance’ would have made a difference.

But what a great trip it was and I managed to have a bite with old friends, Michael Hayes, the founder of the Phnom Penh Post, and also with its current Editor Alan Parkhouse and his Thai girlfriend. The newspaper, which was founded in 1992, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

 All ganja’d up

I knew its founder Michael Hayes, before he knew he was going to found it.  These were the times when the Khmer Rouge was still active and killing people and Cambodia was the wild west. I once went to a party at the Phnom Penh Post where there appeared to be a rich ganja soup on offer and where occasionally someone would shoot off an AK 47, prompting retaliation from an other AK 47 at a local temple.

I fell down the stairwell, three floors I said, and picked myself up without even a bruise. The ‘London Times’ actually recorded this bit of news in a feature I wrote about an old friend Nate Thayer – the guy who found Pol Pot.

Years on I now went back to the stairwell. It was quite clearly impossible to fall three floors.

“If that happened,” said Michael Hayes, “you’d be dead. But I remember you falling”.

Jeesh. Can’t you believe anything you read in ‘The Times’ anymore? Perhaps it was just 2 floors, or er. one.

The newspaper was founded in the midst of mayhem and with the Khmer Rouge still kidnapping foreigners I made frequent trips.

The PPP is continually showered with awards – real ones – not the type Pattaya newspapers award each other, but ones which are awarded internationally.

Journalists actually write for this paper, and some very well known ones often contribute for free. International universities send their journalism undergrads to the Phnom Penh Post as interns to get some hands on experience, even though newspapers are dying in droves.

And they also criticise the boss – and he’s Hun Sen for heaven’s sake – known affectionately to foreign journalists as ‘Hun’.

Pardon my English but what a F….g difference from the Pattaya rags.

But then again journalism is one of the goals of the Phnom Penh Post – which is why everyone is broke.

5 thoughts on “Reporting politics Pattaya and Phnom Penh style

  1. Andrew's point about the Pattaya elections is fair enough. But it needs to be said, somewhere, that this was hardly a hard-fought election. The 2 low-key opposition candidates appeared so late in the day, it wasn't possible for any of the English language papers to interview them, assuming they were available which is a moot point. Also their campaigning was very light indeed – no reported public meetings nor music-blaring buses Pattaya style. Add to all this the fact that Khun Itthiphol is certainly popular locally for putting Pattaya on the world map – let's forget the Walking Street for two seconds – and you have the makings of a foregone conclusion, especially given the traditional low-turnout on election day. The mayoral election of 2008 was very, very different – a neck and neck race between Khun Itthiphol and two rivals, one a well-known Pattaya businessman (Mike's Department Store) and the other a female hotel and theatre director (Tiffany Show etc). There was substantive election coverage from all sides in some papers, from memory Pattaya Mail and Pattaya Today, although not in Pattaya Times which I don't think had yet been properly born by Caesarian section or whatever. As a matter of fact, I did approach the Phnom Penh Post three years ago to ask for an interview with the editor. I was told I needed to provide a slap-up dinner and a hefty fee. Of course, Pattaya media gurus don't need to do that as everyone knows what they think anyway, thanks largely to this very site.

  2. Points taken Barry. But isn't that the story?
    Nobody was seriosuly fighting the election even if they could – and the last time the only contenders were from Tiffany's and Mike's department store! I am not criticising the Mayor, merely pointing out the fawning. Pattaya is of course just spot on as it is. No need for changes other than the ones on his list.
    I am not surprised they asked for a slap up meal at the PPP three years ago btw. Michael was losing tens of thousands a year. He sold out. It became a daily and now the English paper is breaking even, while they promote a new loss making Khmer language paper which I understand is placed four in Cambodia already.

  3. Andrew, why would you expect anything different from these two pseudo newspapers. They are vanity blogs used to promote their narcissistic owners who like to imagine that they are important, and to mislead people into using duff law offices. And of course to suck up to those people who are important, like the mayor. Providing the policies or even the names of the other candidates would just be hard work.
    Interestingly a year ago one of them in particular was filled with photos of the publisher on every page. "Mayors best friend recieves top award' 'We can fix gulf oil leak" 'Farangs banned from owning houses;But we can help" 'Amazing condo deals; only from us" "I advises PM" etc. etc, If the publisher took a shit, then photographers attended and a report was written by him, written in the third person of course under one of his false names and put in his newspaper.
    However since his relationship with Brian Wright 'not my best friend, my fierce competitor, but ,er, the godfather of my children' has came out, he doesn't recieve a lot of invitations to go anywhere. No photos anymore.

    (Some slight legal edits here. All will be revealed tomorrow before you complain)

  4. Point # 11 is hilarious…13 could be an annual Mardi Gras…and 14 is already in good shape….especially at 3am and lends weight to #9 never being acted upon. Job Done…well done mayor.

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