ABSTRACT

On 3 April 1995, Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai publicly rebuked two young female television reporters who had questioned him about the land reform issue when he arrived at Bangkok’s Don Muang airport late in the evening. In response to their questions (whether or not the government had asked the Agriculture Ministry to amend the Land Reform Act, and whether this was necessary) he retorted, ‘Go and ask your father and mother.’1 This outburst reflected Chuan’s frustrations at being exposed to repeated questioning on the same issues, day after day, wherever he went. It was also a patronising outburst, illustrating his dissatisfaction at being challenged by young reporters whom he seemed to regard as kids fresh from school. Explaining the prime minister’s remarks, Industry Minister and Democrat Party executive Trairong Suwannakhiri claimed that Chuan had not intended to insult the reporters, but found their questions childish: ‘If the prime minister must spend all his time answering questions from children, he won’t have time to do any work.’ The Reporters’ Association of Thailand (RAT) issued a strongly worded formal protest over the incident,2 expressing great disappointment that the prime minister had spoken in such a way to reporters. The reporters concerned were simply doing their duty in asking him about an important political issue, for which the government was directly responsible. The RAT claimed that a response such as this could affect public faith in the credibility of the leader of the government.