New government spokesman of Thailand speaks of challenges ahead

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - In less than two years, the Yingluck Shinawatra government has replaced its spokesperson several times in a bid to shore up its image and better communicate with the public. The Nation's Pravit Rojanaphruk spoke to the recently appointed fourth government spokesman, Teerat Ratanasevi. Here are some excerpts:

Why does the government change its spokesperson so often?

I can't say, because I don't really know.

What are the challenges facing the spokesperson for Yingluck's government?

It's the information that must be presented to the public. We don't have data in our hands [at the Office of the government Spokesperson]. Sometimes [bureaucrats at various ministries] see us as political appointees and request information that can be difficult to find unless you know the minister.

Each ministry's spokesperson may also not have the data ready and may themselves be political appointees. Thus, the true facts are not always conveyed to the public. We're now in the process of setting up a system [to address the matter]. Some issues involve data that is spread between different agencies. For instance, bird-flu involves the Foreign and Agriculture ministries, the Immigration Office and other agencies.

The challenge now is how the Office of the government spokesperson can have information that matches the data held by other agencies.

What's your strategy for winning the trust of people who are not supporters of this administration and who are distrustful?

I will focus on presenting facts because the nuances hidden in language can lead to more political hatred. Retaliating to verbal abuse will only worsen the situation. We must accept criticism.

Given the deep political polarisation, is it necessary to speak to those who oppose the government or is it adequate to only communicate with supporters?

The government is not working for any particular political group. I am working for everybody in the country, so we must communicate with everyone. Whether they will believe us or not is another matter. The more we divide people, the less beneficial it will become. I have close friends who hold different political views, but we accept one another. We do not interfere with each other's beliefs because political preference is a personal right.

Yingluck is regarded by many of her opponents as merely a puppet of her older brother, former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. What are your views on this matter?

From the outside, the premier might look as if she's making compromises, but in reality she's very decisive and straightforward. She provides guidance and is professional in the decision-making process. This you won't see through the media. She's no puppet [of Thaksin] when it comes to administering the government. And she does a lot of homework.

How long do you expect to be in this position? Will you last longer than your predecessors?

I don't know how long I will last. I do not hope to become a minister or enter politics. I studied public relations in college and was a journalist, so I know that [TV] reporters do not want a 30-minute press conference in order to produce a 30-second report.

What's the government's weakness in terms of communication?

Many concur that we only see people criticising the government's policies, but there has been little communication on how these policies will improve people's lives. The media tends to be negative. We need pre-PR, present-PR and post-PR so there is no confusion or doubt among the public. The issue of the rice-pledging scheme is a good lesson.

  • Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia 1 hour 46 minutes ago
    Wednesday #sgroundup: Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day 16 hours ago
    The Lotus breadvan: Flickr photo of the day

    The Lotus Europa was one of the stranger sports cars of the '70s, but still managed to corner like a sheepdog thanks to its low weight and fiberglass body. This example caught by Dave Lindsay is fairly typical of the nicer early '70s Type 62 Europas Lotus exported to the United States; by today's standards they're odd, underpowered and unreliable — which means they have a fervent fan base.

  • Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph 17 hours ago
    Inside MotoGP, elbow on asphalt at 210 mph

    In MotoGP, a most strange sport, compact, highly fit men, most of them Spanish, Italian, Japanese, or Australian, maneuver 350-lb., multimillion-dollar motorcycles around Formula One tracks at 220 mph while wearing computerized suits that inflate when they fall off at speed. It feels as though you’re watching Tron live, and the crashes are just as spectacular. Driving these things requires a lot of nerve, as well as generous levels of Euro-style machismo. The riders of MotoGP can’t walk down the street in Barcelona or Milan without being followed by screaming fans. They’re like some sort of unholy marriage between Daft Punk and Apollo astronauts. In the United States, they’re just guys walking down the street.

  • Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia
    Pirates kidnap three on Singapore tanker off Malaysia

    Armed pirates boarded a Singapore-managed oil tanker in the Strait of Malacca, kidnapping three Indonesian crew and stealing some of the vessel's shipment of diesel fuel, the International Maritime Bureau said Wednesday. The attack occurred early Tuesday off Malaysia's west coast, said Noel Choong, head of IMB's Kuala Lumpur-based piracy reporting centre. The diesel oil tanker was believed to be en route to Myanmar. "IMB is aware of the attack on the Singapore-managed ship in the Malacca Straits.

  • Fresh wave of Hello Kitty mania to descend on McDonald’s outlets in Singapore
    Fresh wave of Hello Kitty mania to descend on McDonald’s outlets in Singapore

    It may not be safe to enter a McDonald’s restaurant in Singapore on Mondays starting 28 April. To celebrate the iconic Japanese character Hello Kitty’s 40th anniversary, the fast food chain announced last Friday that it would be releasing a new collection of Hello Kitty toys in McDonald’s restaurants island wide next Monday.

  • First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy
    First sign of S.Korea ferry disaster was call from a frightened boy

    He called the emergency 119 number which put him through to the fire service, which in turn forwarded him to the coastguard two minutes later. That was followed by about 20 other calls from children on board the ship to the emergency number, a fire service officer told Reuters.