A youth group has called for the dismissal of a BBC reporter who questioned Thai royalist propaganda.
On 2 November 2017, members of a group called Young Thai Blood filed a petition at the British Embassy in Bangkok, urging the UK government to dismiss Jonathan Head, South East Asia Correspondent for BBC News.
The petition came after Head interviewed Narisa Chakrabongse
, a great-granddaughter of King Chulalongkorn, King Bhumibol's grandfather. In the interview, he asked Narisa whether Thai people’s love for the late King is ‘genuine’, given the extent of royalist propaganda and the prohibition of criticism against the royal family in Thai society.
Young Thai Blood stated that Head’s question created a misunderstanding about the late King. The question allegedly reflected the BBC journalist’s lack of knowledge about Thai culture, despite Head having been stationed in Thailand for many years. In addition to calling for Head’s dismissal from the BBC, the group asked for an official apology to all Thai people for having disrespected their beliefs and culture.
“As young people who have Thai blood, we therefore call on the UK government to consider the action of the reporter of the BBC Thailand office and terminate his duty in Thailand, and for the office to publish a statement of apology to Thai people throughout the country,” said Petchmongkol Wassuwan, the group’s representative.
Petchmongkol is not the only individual outraged by Head’s interview. On 31 October, Panadda Diskul, Deputy Minister of Education, posted on his Facebook
account that Head does not understand Thai history, culture or social etiquette, which should be basic knowledge for any correspondent working in Thailand.
“[Head] doesn’t know Thai people and important institutions of the Thai nation, due to not having tried to learn. A journalist of this kind should study more about the basics of ‘etiquette’ in a nation before travelling to work there. He should go back and rest in his home country first,” read Panadda’s Facebook post.
Head responded via a Facebook comment that it is his job to ask questions that non-Thais want to know the answers to. He added that Panadda should not be bothered by the interview since Narisa herself was satisfied with it.
“Narisa was perfectly happy to answer the question. So there is really no need for anyone else to feel offended by it,” Head commented.