BANGKOK – The Bangkok Post has pulled an article in which a reporter claimed to have interviewed former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The Bangkok Post, Thailand's most established English-language newspaper, published "Yingluck Saw the Coup Coming" by Wassana Nanuam on 24 November.
Billed as the first interview with Ms. Yingluck since the military staged a coup against her government on 22 May 2014, the piece gained considerable attention almost immediately after it was made available.
Ms. Yingluck was quoted as saying that she was contemplating running in the next election, and that since her first day as Prime Minister she had expected to be ousted either by the military or by one of Thailand's "independent agencies." The remarks were considered unusually strong for the former PM, who is known for her modest and vague speeches.
In the article, Yingluck went as far as criticising the military coup, which was by led by former army chief Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha: "It's the same as if the people handed me the car keys and said I must drive and lead the country. Then suddenly, someone points a gun at my head and tells me to get out of the car while I'm at the wheel driving the people forward."
The article was later removed from the Bangkok Post's website and its author, Wassana Nanuam, later wrote on her Facebook that the piece was not based on an interview with Yingluck. Rather, the article was drawn from bits and pieces of private conversations with the former leader, Wassana wrote.
"I just wanted to present lighthearted and colourful angles [of former PM Yingluck]. I didn't want to focus on politics," Wassana wrote. "Let me insist that this is not an interview. It's a recollection of lighthearted and colourful topics about the former Madam Prime Minister."
According to Wassana, the editors at Bangkok Post "misunderstood" the intention of her article when they edited the piece.
"They may have looked at the heavy angles and raised them into points that are different to what the author intended to present, but I recognise it as the error on my own part."
She concluded, "I'd like to take responsibility for any [errors] that were caused by the lack of clear communication from my article. I know that I will be criticised and scolded by many sides."
A self-styled "military reporter," Wassana is known to be close with many high-ranking generals in the Thai armed forces, including Gen. Prayuth, who is now ruling Thailand as chairman of the military junta and Prime Minister.
She has published numerous books based on the "inside information" she has accumulated from her influential sources. Her most recent work, "The Path of the Tiger: Prayuth Chan-ocha," was published in October by Matichon Group, the company that owns Khaosod English.
Yingluck became the first female Prime Minister of Thailand after she won a landslide election in July 2011, thanks largely to votes from supporters of her older brother, the influential former PM Thaksin Shinawatra.
Anti-government protests that erupted in November 2013 prompted Yingluck to dissolve Parliament a month later and call for a snap election to be held in February. However, protesters blocked the election and successfully paved the way for the Constitutional Court to invalidate the poll on the grounds that the votes did not take place across the country on the same day.
The same court later ousted Yingluck from the premiership in early May on charges of abuse of power, forcing her to hand over the seat to her deputy, Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan. Niwatthamrong was eventually toppled by the military coup on 22 May 2014.
Yingluck spent several days in military detention after the coup and has kept a relatively low profile ever since. She has consistently refrained from speaking to the press, presumably to comply with the agreement not to partake in any political activities that she reportedly signed in order to secure her release from military detention.
The former leader has not publicly reacted to the "interview" by Wassana.
Meanwhile, Gen. Prayuth, the chairman of the military junta, said today that Yingluck is free to run in the election if Thailand's Election Commission approves her application, and suggested that he would not be "troubled" if she won.
"If she can run, people are free to vote for her. It's not my business. I'm not a voter," Gen. Prayuth said.
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