When the lion and the mouse talk too much

opinion July 17, 2013 00:00

By Tulsathit Taptim

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Certain things are better left unsaid, or "unrecorded" as far as Thaksin Shinawatra is concerned. It's no secret how much he wants to return home a free man, but when people hear it on tape, the situation changes drastically. Now, what seemed like a br

It doesn’t matter whether it was his real voice, or whether it was doctored from a real recording. Even red-shirt leader Thida Thavornseth has admitted that the leak of the audio clip – purportedly a phone conversation between Thaksin and a senior defence official – has thrown the amnesty plan into great uncertainty. And one doesn’t have to be a great political analyst to see why.
If it really is Thaksin’s voice all the way through, it simply flies in the face of the claims that amnesty is not being pushed primarily for him. There are a few pointers in the dialogue as to what the real goal of the amnesty plan is. When an amnesty bill, or an amnesty executive decree – if the controversial conversation is to be taken seriously – comes up for debate in Parliament, all the opposition needs to do is re-read the script and let the two men in the tape deconstruct the amnesty plan’s purported nobility by themselves.
If it is a doctored clip, there can be only one certain consequence: what was discussed can never happen. To be more specific, if an amnesty bill is rushed through the first, second and third parliamentary sessions as suggested in the dialogue, or turned into an executive decree, again as suggested in the dialogue, why did the person who doctored the tape bother in the first place? Such voice editing is meant to defame, right? It doesn’t make sense to do voice editing simply to state factually what is going to happen.
Well, come to think of it, is it possible that someone who knew of the executive decree plan put the issue in the recording in order to discredit Thaksin? That’s plausible. After all, having Thaksin talk about an executive decree on tape could sabotage the plan because it would sound like he wants to implement the executive decree for himself.
However, just because it’s plausible doesn’t mean that is what happened. Anyone who “doctored” the dialogue would have to first know about the executive decree scheme and gamble on the chance of Thaksin talking to a senior defence official on the phone about it, so the issue could be blended into the conversation in the smoothest manner. If Thailand’s political war has become that technically sophisticated, any light at the end of the tunnel belongs to a train coming straight at us.
To sum it up, issuing an executive decree to effect an amnesty is a no-no for the government. Unless, of course, Prime Minister Yingluck has the audacity to make the dialogue a reality and claim that the “doctored” audio clip gave her a great idea. If she admits the tape is genuine, it would be equally awkward for her to go on and execute a plan described in lurid detail by her brother, and bring him home.
That the government has been unable to defend the dialogue speaks volumes. Nobody has come out and said, “What’s wrong with Thaksin and a defence official discussing ways for a mouse to bring a lion home through an amnesty executive decree?”
Thaksin and amnesty are a cat and a ball of string. His “crime” – of allowing or condoning his family’s successful bid for a big plot of state-auctioned land – is not unforgivable, but that does not seem to matter much now. In an attempt to undo that conviction, he has got himself caught in an entanglement increasingly sticky and complex.
He must have acknowledged that any amnesty plan that also covers himself is not that simple, or the ruling party would have received his green light to flex its parliamentary muscles and get it done a long time ago. Thaksin has seemed patient at times, but whenever he gets restless, the headlines are certain to feature the likes of Chalerm Yoobamlung and a leaked audio recording. 
It might have been different if the contentious audio clip had highlighted Thaksin’s opinion on how the amnesty would benefit others or bring about true reconciliation and political peace. If it’s a doctored clip, the mastermind has succeeded in making him come across as selfish. If it’s genuine, Thaksin and his dialogue partner only have themselves to blame. Of course, some things are better left unsaid, never mind struck from the record.