Examine the just-concluded APEC 2022 Summit in Bangkok positively and one can learn a few things about the propaganda.
Let’s start with the APEC motto, or propaganda, if you will. The Prayut Chan-o-cha regime came up with this: “Open, Connect, Balance.”
This motto is at least partly true. If you are head of state or a government or an economic area, cabinet ministers, CEO of a big corporation, or senior diplomats, then the APEC Summit at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center is indeed at least open and connective.
It is only “open and connect” for the elites only. For most others, the common people, it is about blocked roads, closed skywalks, and putting up with it – it is closed and disconnect. You would not get a chance to take a selfie with French President Emmanuel Macron or the infamous Saudi Crown Prince Mohammaed bin Salman Al Saud, not to mention U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris or Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is branded by one western media as the most powerful man in the world.
Just opposite the convention center, on the other side of the Ratchadapisek Road, I talked to two slum dwellers of Klong Phai Singto community on Monday. Boonthom Robkhob, 62, told me that police kept visiting and reminding her and her neighbors daily to stay inside their shanty homes for the week unless it is absolutely necessary to be outside and to not hawk or set up any stall selling anything for a week. Asked if the government compensated for any lost income and she told me none.
Thus basically, APEC 2022 in Bangkok is only “open and connect” for a few elites and closed and disconnected for most people.
The Prayut regime, led by a former junta leader who staged a coup back in 2014, would not stop with the propaganda there, however. In a desperate attempt to convince the world, the guests and the 2,200 foreign journalists who parachuted in for the PR summit extravaganza over the past week, a giant billboard was put up close Suvarnabhumi International Airport carrying the following message in English: “All Thais are proud to be the host of APEC 2022”.
On Friday, this over generalized claim was literally shattered when a group of 200 or so anti-APEC-cum-anti-government protesters clashed with riot police on Din Sor Road, next to Democracy Monument, which is seven kilometers away from the summit venue. Twenty-five protesters were arrested, half a dozen police were slightly injured.
On the protesters’ side, some were also injured and one young male protester, Payu Dao Din, will almost likely lose one of his eyesight after police’s rubber bullet hit straight into his eyeball from a fairly close range.
Not even a totalitarian society like North Korea is without dissent and for the Thai government to claim that all Thais “are proud” to play host to APEC is just a lie. After the clash on Friday afternoon, police quickly put up many container walls around the protest area, making sure the area is neither open nor connected to the rest of Bangkok.
Prayut will frame countless photos of himself shaking hands with world leaders, while Payu will most likely lose one of his eyes, and soon people may forget the propagandas and the three-billion baht of taxpayers’ money used in funding APEC 2022 Summit in Bangkok.