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A day at the World Service

Liliane Landor | 19:22 UK time, Tuesday, 19 September 2006

Three stories vying for space tonight... And one or two struggling for air... This morning at our main editorial meeting we thought we could configure our day like this:

    Expect the Panorama football bunging story to make it to the lead as soon as the embargo is lifted, and keep an eye out for New York and the UN general assembly. Ahmadinajad is speaking, so is George Bush. And Thabo Mbeki. And Kofi Annan... Very World Service you might say, but in the present climate very relevant, and most topical. Our diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus is at the UN, poised to engage in some fascinating discourse analysis - interpret every word, every pregnant pause, and keep reading between the lines.

But it's not that straightforward.

World Service logo
We've just had news of a military coup in Thailand. "Not a 'proper' coup, surely?" is the first reaction of a programme editor. But our correspondent in Bangkok confirms it. It's a proper coup all right with all the fixtures and trimmings. Troops out on the streets; government offices and TV stations seized, a state of emergency declared, the constitution suspended.

We speak to the Thai deputy PM who’s also at the UN. He tells us he's declared a state of emergency - all the way from New York. But he's not going back before the PM Mr Thaksin has had his turn at the lectern, later tonight.

World Have Your Say, our interactive programme, runs its first half hour exclusively on live testimonies from Bangkok. E-mails and texts are flooding in, and bloggers contribute furiously. There is a sense of urgency about it all, but the people we speak to are extraordinarily calm and seem to take it in their stride.

So there we are, it's 7pm. No casualties in Bangkok; the UN story makes it to the top too. We're waiting for the embargo on Panorama to be lifted, and can even spare some space for the lying Hungarian prime minister who says he won’t quit - (brilliant clip this morning from an angry Hungarian opposition MP who said the PM lies about everything, even about lying!)

The world is a fascinating place and all is well in the World Service news department.


  • 1.
  • At 11:14 PM on 19 Sep 2006,
  • Andrew Milner wrote:

So there is some justice in the world after all. Wonder if Prime Minister Thaksin will have the good sense not to return to Thailand. Today Thailand, tomorrow UK. Keep in mind those Romanians that are supposedly en-route have the experience of overthrowing the government of President Ceausescu in December 1989. He and his wife were then summarily executed by firing squad. Perhaps these Romanian immigrants have a few tips they'd like to pass on.

The world is indeed a fascinating place. Who would have imagined a bloodless military coup in relatively peaceful Thailand. It came like the bolt from the blue. Obviously very well planned and executed, it was engineered while Thaksin was away in New York to address the United Nations. But the coup raises several questions: will the military keep its word and ensure democratic elections in a year's time? Will tourists be driven away by the political upheaval? Did the king have prior knowledge of the coup? Will Thaksin seek political asylum in another country or will he return to face corruption charges? In Hungary the question of telling lies for political cover-ups and political advancement is further food for thought.

I thought there was a particularly devastating report by Magdi Abdelhadi, on the BBC World Service. I couldn't find much on the web, though. I don't think us plebs are supposed to have access to this:

Order for 2200 GMT World Briefing Tuesday

Q23 (22) Abdelhadi Darfur Media  629 Approved 22:34:45 0:02:08 [..] The pressure on the UN is heightened by the western media's focus on the plight of the two million people who have been driven from their homes. But as our Arab Affairs Analyst, Magdi Abdelhadi, explains the Arab media has not shown the same interest in their fellow Muslims in Darfur. Magdi Abdelhadi reporting.


  • 4.
  • At 08:06 PM on 20 Sep 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Liliane Landor, editor of World Service news and current affairs: ...the people we speak to are extraordinarily calm and seem to take it in their stride. ...So there we are, it's 7pm. No casualties in Bangkok...

No casualties except democracy, and reduction of the country's international standing and potential for international influence - yet another country whose leaders cannot speak on the world's stage for fear of a coup if they leave the country.

The overthrow of the first Thai PM to have served a full term of office and been re-elected, albeit in the face of opposition parties who boycotted the elections.

Yes, it matters that no person died, and it is a great tribute to the Thai people that they cope so brilliantly with such events, but it remains to be seen if the Thai people's consistency and acceptance will be seen by the international community, not least investors, as the country remaining a safe and stable place to visit, to live, to do business.

In other countries a coup - the overthrow of the legitimate policy and law-making and enforcing authority - would be a disaster in that respect. Coups never raise a country's international standing. It is difficult to imagine this change at the top not resulting in unpredicted changes in the country which may have adverse effects.

The fact that this coup, led by a muslim general, follows so closely upon apparently muslim terrorist bombings in the South is interesting. Will a "morality" clampdown now be enforced, to "placate" the disaffected? Perhaps in the mistaken belief that the country's standing has been adversely affected by the arrest there of the false-confessor to the killing of the child pageant winner JonBenet Ramsey, by much more open homosexuality than in surrounding countries, by prostitution in some resorts, or by the touring "ladyboy" shows. Military leaders are rarely more tolerant than civilians, and may not appreciate that many countries view toleration and diversity as highly civilised.

It will probably all depend upon the somewhat unknown beliefs about the country's future of the highly respected royal family, and just how much influence they actually have. But since they most certainly are not elected, democracy has been a victim. But the real point at which that happened was when the opposition parties refused to participate in the last elections.

Does it matter? Given that the US, and to a lesser extent our own governments are being so contemptuous of democracy and the rule of law domestically, whilst using democracy as an excuse for interfering in other countries? That's an interesting, and not clear-cut issue, is it? I hope the BBC will cover it with due intelligence and sensitivity.

  • 5.
  • At 06:40 PM on 24 Sep 2006,
  • J Westerman wrote:

“Three stories vying for space tonight”.
Not a problem. One person tells each story once and without gratuitous personal opinions, drum rolls and flashing lights.

  • 6.
  • At 07:24 PM on 24 Oct 2006,
  • Keith Johnson wrote:

The events in Hungary are a sign of people's disatisfaction and distrust of state institutions and who directs and frames the laws in representative systems of government.
Similarly, there is widespread disatisfaction with "democratic" electoral systems in the Western state capitalist societies. There is tremendous apathy here in Canada and in the UK and the US, yet your investigative journalists give this very scant coverage, or even recognition. Are the days of the "State" truly numbered ? Why so many people fail to VOTE ? What does this apathy signify ?

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