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CNN Interview : Samak Sundaravej

CNN Talkasia : Interview with Samak Sundaravej

February 19, 2008 — Updated 0803 GMT (1603 HKT)

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) — Thailand’s new Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej is the first to be democratically elected since the nation’s bloodless coup in 2006. A veteran politician and former governor of Bangkok, Samak is accused of being a nominee of friend and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. As he prepares to take office, he joins Talk Asia’s Dan Rivers to discuss his allegiance to his ousted predecessor, corruption, and his alleged role in the Thammasat massacre of 1976.


Dan Rivers: October 1976, this grainy footage shows one of Thailand’s darkest episodes — the Thammasat massacre. Soldiers killed dozens of left-wing students during a frenzy of anti-communist fervor, and Samak was at the scene. He was Deputy Interior Minister — his enemies accused him of goading the lynch-mobs. The massacre triggered a military coup and remains an emotionally-charged subject in Thailand.

Dan Rivers: Some people are very critical of your past in Thailand, some people have even said you’ve got blood on your hands. What would you say to that?

Samak Sundaravej: Oh, I deny the whole thing. I have no concern on that business. And I have nothing to do, to deal with that at all. I’m an outsider by that time. And then the Governor of Bangkok, he is the Secretary General of the Democratic Party and the Deputy. So, the chief of the group asked him to see, so I go along with him. That evening, he talk to the chief of the group, I talk to the military. The guy asked me, what do you think Kun Samak, we close all the newspaper? I said, it’s impossible. Next morning who will know who is the one who is a reform group, who are they. So next morning, they make the first committee, five. One military, four civilians just to open, to back to normal for all the newspaper. That was what I do.

Dan Rivers: Would you like to take the opportunity now to condemn what happened in 1976?

Samak Sundaravej: Actually it’s a movement of some students. They don’t like the government.

Dan Rivers: But dozens of people, maybe hundreds of people died.

Samak Sundaravej: No, just only one died. There are 3,000 students in the Thammasat University.

Dan Rivers: The official death toll was 46, and many people say it was much higher than that.

Samak Sundaravej: No. For me, no deaths, one unlucky guy being beaten and being burned in Sanam Luang. Only one guy by that day.

Dan Rivers: So there was no massacre?

Samak Sundaravej: No not at all, but taking pictures, 3,000 students, boys and girls lined up, they say that is the death toll. 3,000.

Dan Rivers: People say that your very right-wing rhetoric inflamed the situation.

Samak Sundaravej: What’s wrong to be the right-wing if it is? The right-wing is with the King. The left-wing is communist.

Dan Rivers: So do you think Thailand was in danger of falling to communism in 1976?

Samak Sundaravej: Well, a guy called Lomax, he write a book, the book is called, "Thailand: The War that is, the War that will be." And he says that this is a domino theory. He says that there will be 10 dominoes around this area. So if Cambodia will be, Vietnam will be, Laos will be, and Thailand will be the number four domino. And from Thailand, it will be Burma, it will be Malaysia, Singapore. Small islands like Singapore. So many islands like Indonesia and later, big islands like Australia and even two tiny islands down under. Ten countries will be communist. We are domino number four.

Dan Rivers: Do you think it’s excusable to kill innocent students in the name of defending the country from communism?

Samak Sundaravej: Oh, who kill the students? If the fighting between the military, the military is to defend for the country. Somebody tried to bring communism into our country, it’s up to them. The casualty, you must go to check what had happened.

Dan Rivers: In 1992, more bloodshed. An estimated 200,000 people took to the streets of Bangkok to protest against the appointment of a military coup leader as prime minister. Unrest escalated — A state of emergency was declared and troops opened fire on crowds. Dozens of people were killed, and thousands arrested. Samak was deputy prime minister at the time. The army eventually retreated, ushering in a period of civilian rule, but the event is forever known as "Black May."

Dan Rivers: Again protest against the military government, again your name is linked to the bloodshed that followed. What would you say to that?

Samak Sundaravej: I was deputy prime minister for three times, nobody mentioned anything. When I resigned and I run as a governor of Bangkok, oh, it’s a murder with blood in hand, you cannot be governor. So I bring the case to the court. And when the vote come, nobody kept over 1 million, I got 1 million something, why?

Dan Rivers: But that doesn’t answer the question. Were you involved in 1992?

Samak Sundaravej: No. Even any time, I have no involvement. At any time. At any time of…

Dan Rivers: Your conscience is clear?

Samak Sundaravej: If I do something wrong, I cannot come this far. I think my hand is clean and then I can live with it. The people of this country know me, who I am, so I am not afraid. But why they put a stamp on me? Because I don’t like the press. I don’t like the media. I think actually when they talk good to me, they talk good to them. When they put something slash out to me, I just slash back to them. When you punch me, I punch back. There is no written document that says by human feeling that the prime minister should be a good guy, should talk soft…

Dan Rivers: I mean, are you a good guy? How would you describe yourself?

Samak Sundaravej: Somebody must describe me, I cannot describe myself. But for me, if I have something wrong, I cannot come this far. But the hatred of some people, yes, but for me yeah, I don’t hate them, I just feel pity that they have an ill feeling to me.

From : CNN TalkAsia

What do you think if your prime minister talks like this.
I don’t know what to say because in fact October 1976 is something Thais don’t talk about.
The truth about this is something we have to wait, I don’t know how long and nobody knows.
Maybe in the next generation of people or maybe we just have to forget about it.
I think if you really need to talk about this when it comes to the last conclusion you will have to be against the laws.

Categories: News and politics
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