Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Thai photographer is fired. Why?

Matichon on March 24 (via Bangkok Pundit):
At 11:40 a.m, on March 23, Mr. Saman Sunthana, the head photographer of H.R.H the Crown Prince, drove his motorcycle together with other officials who work for the Crown Prince, went to the red shirt rally and took pictures and video of the proceedings including pictures of the red shirt leaders and the atmosphere of the rally. After a while, the leaders on the stage became aware of this and stated to the protesters "He does not abandon the protesters and requests that you state 'Love Live the King' three times." The protesters then did so three times. The officials and photographer stayed for around 15 minutes before leaving
Matichon (again via Bangkok Pundit) on March 25 reports on a "dismissal order" (copy here) of the photographer for having committed
.... a seriously bad act ... on March 23 when he was on duty and that he abandoned his duties and joined a political protest .... He did this by wearing his royal uniform and this was inappropriate.....
So a photographer for the the HRH the Crown Prince, supposedly acting of his own accord, dressed in his official uniform, showed up at a political rally accompanied by other officials of HRH,  and was said to have delivered greetings from HRH. This photographer is dismissed the next day for having "joined" a political protest.

It's the last part -- the dismissal and the explanation for the dismissal -- that perplexes me.

When I first heard about this incident, what came to my mind was the fact of a visit by HRH Queen Sirikit to the funeral of a Yellow Shirt protester in April 2008.   Of course, that event was certainly not meant to be interpreted as any kind of political act.  The Thai Royals are above politics.  Reminding myself of that visit, I could put the photographer's visit into context.  I understood that a visit by the photographer of HRH the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to a Red Shirt rally would not have crossed any line.  Certainly, it would not seem to be cause for anyone to lose his job.  After all, as BP noted, there were no reports that the photographer protested at the rally or joined the rally.  It was just a visit.

In the eyes of those who stand above politics, there is, of course, no difference among political factions -- between Reds and Yellows.  In view of the funeral visit, and news reporting of the royal photographer's visit, the abrupt dismissal of the photographer leaves this observer perplexed.

When isn't a visit just a visit?

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