Korn shows how Sansern flunked test

Korn shows how Sansern flunked test

Ex-finance minister Korn Chatikavanij figures he has spent enough time in rice fields in the past four years not to take too seriously a lecture on rice by government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd. (Main photo FB/KornChatikavanijDP)
Ex-finance minister Korn Chatikavanij figures he has spent enough time in rice fields in the past four years not to take too seriously a lecture on rice by government spokesman Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd. (Main photo FB/KornChatikavanijDP)

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd appears to have shot himself in the mouth -- once again.

Just over a week ago, during a protest in Thepha district of Songkhla by opponents of the coal-fired power plant project, a tweet was made by iLaw, a civic group monitoring lawmaking and law enforcement, about a missing protest leader, Mustarzidine Waba, aka Baemuz, after his arrest by police.

In the Thailand Moves Forward TV programme aired on Nov 28, Lt Gen Sansern mentioned the missing protest leader, implying that he might have gone away with another woman who wasn't his wife -- similar to the case, not long ago, of another protest leader in Songkhla's Saba Yoi district.

He said he merely made an observation and did not accuse Baemuz of running away with another woman.

But netizens and supporters of the power plant opponents were not amused by the spokesman's bad joke which, they said, was not supported by any evidence.

Then last week, Lt Gen Sansern, who is also acting director-general of the Public Relations Department, accused former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij, without naming him, of being an opportunist craving media space with an intention to lead the public into believing the government has not been doing anything.

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

The publicity which appeared to upset the spokesman was just Mr Korn's recommendations to the government on how it could help rice farmers shore up rice prices during the months of November and December when the main crops were to be harvested.

Mr Korn felt compelled to respond, and it was right for him to do so, as Lt Gen Sansern's accusation was strong and childish.

In his Facebook post, Mr Korn said the government should be more open-minded and receptive to divergent opinions as several policies could help farmers.

He lectured the spokesman and urged him to distinguish friend from foe and not to sow the seed of conflict.

He also reminded the lieutenant-general that there are people outside the government who are loyal and have good intentions toward the country.

This was a reminder to the military that it should not claim to be the sole loyalist to the country. It should also help remind the military not to adopt such a defensive attitude to criticism.

Now take a look at Mr Korn's recommendation as to whether it makes sense or whether it was just a ploy to make the government look bad as implied by Lt Gen Sansern.

Mr Korn claimed he had spent four years working on the "Khao Im" packed rice project in Maha Sarakham province, which made him understand much better the mechanism of the rice system.

His recommendation calls for a government guarantee on farm revenue from rice, with the government paying the price differential directly into the bank accounts of individual farmers so they will earn 12,000 baht per tonne of unmilled paddy and 16,000 baht per tonne of Hom Mali unmilled paddy.

He also asked the government to subsidise the harvest and quality improvement costs for farmers at 1,200 baht per rai of up to 20 rai per farmer. A

Additionally, he suggested the government extend credit to farmers to enable them to delay their sale of paddy by storing the paddy in their barns until market prices rise, with the government paying the bank interest on behalf of the farmers.

Do the above recommendations make the government look bad? If Lt Gen Sansern feels the government has something in mind to help farmers during the harvest season for the main crop, he should tell the public, especially the farmers -- not dismiss outright Mr Korn's recommendations, or accuse him of being an opportunist.

Personally, I doubt the government has a plan in mind to help the farmers.

The new agriculture minister, Grisada Boonrach, and his two deputies have just been sworn in and their seats are not warm enough to come up with any plan yet.

Forget about any initiative or plan from their predecessor, Gen Chatchai Sarikulya, who was removed because of his poor performance, although he still gets to keep his deputy prime minister's job which is largely ceremonial and symbolic.

Or just take at a look at how the government has been handling the rubber price slump and the angry rubber planters.

Protest leaders were temporarily detained for attitude adjustments and the same old promise was offered that the government would use more rubber locally. No wonder the rubber planters have lost trust and confidence in the government.

The government spokesman serves as a communicator between the government and the public.

If he is smart and does his job efficiently, it will be a boon for the government. If not, he will be the government's liability.

If the last two incidents are any indication, he has failed the test.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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