Hitting all the wrong notes in shooting briefing

Hitting all the wrong notes in shooting briefing

He could have shown regret. It was the morning after one of the most shocking crimes to have occurred in the country. He could have offered his condolence to the families of those who were killed and injured. He should have made it heartfelt.

People were traumatised. It would have been fitting to show his empathy, to tell the bereaved he shared their sense of loss and devastation while assuring everyone else that they need not be afraid.

He could have stepped up and shown responsibility. The carnage is not his fault but it occurred on his watch. An apology is due, first and foremost.

He could have discussed reparation measures where possible.

Then, he should have vowed to look into the rampage -- what went wrong at each step of the incident that made it possible for a soldier to take that many firearms and munitions from an army camp and then go and shoot people along the way to the shopping mall without being stopped.

This is not fault-finding. The information and analysis will help us prevent a horrendous crime like this from occurring again.

He should have vowed to share with the public full details of the operation to stop the gunman. The public deserves to know how effective their law enforcement officers are, especially in times of crisis.

A full, fair and transparent review of the operation will also help the authorities cope with crimes like this more effectively should there be a next time.

He could have mentioned the casualties solemnly. He could have shown respect and genuine sorrow. He should have kept in mind that each number he was reciting referred to real people, human beings who were walking around, talking and chatting with their friends and loved ones only the other day.

Snatching a piece of paper and reading out the number of casualties and the nature of the injuries casually, apparently without feeling anything about them, was really not good enough.

He should have controlled the mood and tone of the briefing. It was a solemn occasion. So many lives had been lost. People across the nation were still reeling from the unprecedented violence committed by a military man against innocent civilians with weapons stolen from a state cache.

The situation called for a cool and collected response. It was no place for unscripted babbling or self-promotion. It was even no place to evoke a talk-show-like ambience. What was the role of all these shout-outs to reporters: "Are these Thai characteristics?", "Louder please!'', "Yes or no?"

Flamboyant speeches reminiscent of a campaign rally are completely out-of-place, disrespectful, even vulgar with such great losses. And the mini-heart gestures? Who would have thought that he would decide to use a "cute" gesture after briefing the nation about the gruesome murders?

He should have controlled his own emotions and body language. He should be seen as a steady figure who is in control of the situation. He should not have pointed this and that all the time when he was talking about the hideous crime. He should have acted more formally.

He shouldn't have lashed out at reporters who questioned the extrajudicial killing. There was no need for him to fume and yell at the press.

He was supposed to represent steadiness and steadfastness, the ability to bring sense to chaos and madness. It was his duty to answer questions clearly and calmly. What was the point of adding to the emotions of an already jittery nation?

He shouldn't have leapt to the defence of the military, or anybody involved in the crime, too quickly. It was immediately after the incident. There was no way he could know all the details involved. To ferociously vouch for the army to which he used to belong before a probe has been conducted makes it look like he is exempting his alma mater from public scrutiny.

He should have refrained from politics during the briefing. He shouldn't have discussed the economy, his attempts to boost it and what he has done for five years, and how his approach has been better than anyone else's. The briefing was about the senseless mass shooting and how it shook people out of their minds. Nobody wanted to hear him bragging about his own performance or slamming others for alleged failures.

Indeed, he shouldn't have spoken impromptu in a briefing like this.

Public speaking is not his strength, nor his anger management or shows of empathy towards fellow citizens.

A cryptic hashtag in Thai that may be translated as #aslwluatr was trending on Twitter after his press briefing on Sunday. The acronym stands for: A stupid leader will lead us all to ruin. It's meant for him.


Atiya Achakulwisut is a Bangkok Post columnist.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.


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