The Atlantic Wire
Early this month, longtime Reuters journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, who was disciplined by the news agency in April for cracking a joke about Japan’s nuclear crisis, issued a cryptic tweet: “I just officially resigned from Reuters, so that I can publish a very important story on Thailand they refused to run. Watch this space.”
Today, after a month of working 16-hour days, Marshall has published the first installment of his story, and explained why he jeopardized his career to do so. Thailand, he explains in an article in The Independent, may seem like a “modern and open” constitutional monarchy, but generals and palace courtiers are sending it “backwards into authoritarianism and repression.” In particular, he calls out the country’s enforcement of its lese majeste law, which makes any insult to 83-year-old King Bhumibol (pictured above), Queen Sirikit, or their son, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, punishable by up to fifteen years in jail. When he got access three months ago to confidential U.S. cables on Thailand believed to have been downloaded by U.S. soldier and WikiLeaks informant Bradley Manning, he knew he had to write the piece. But, he says, Reuters wouldn’t publish the story because it didn’t want to put its 1,000-plus employees in Thailand at risk. Reuters, for its part, tells The Independent that it didn’t run the piece because it had “questions regarding length, sourcing, objectivity, and legal issues” (the State Department has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the cables).
What does Marshall’s lengthy expose–published just days before Thailand’s general election–reveal? The documents indicate that Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, who is next in line to the throne, has health problems, that an increasingly influential Queen Sirikit supports the Yellow Shirt movement that helped oust prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a 2006 coup, and that the country could face a succession crisis when the ailing King Bhumibol dies. Ultimately, the BBC notes, “many of the issues raised in the cables are known about and discussed privately in Thailand. But there is a taboo around their public discussion in the country.”