A Thai Perspective on our Political situation

I thought this was an excellent article (an editorial from The Nation) and so wanted to post it. Hopefully it will help some of you outside of Thailand to understand a little more one Thai’s perspective on our political situation. The next few months are critical months for Thailand.


The time has come to rediscover our moral compass

By The Nation
Published on July 9, 2011

A blanket amnesty will do nothing to heal the bitter divide in Thai society – justice and the rule of law are the only way forward

In early 2003, the administration of Thaksin Shinawatra launched a controversial campaign in the name of a war against drugs.

Within three months, about 2,500 suspects and a handful of innocent bystanders had been killed. The official explanation was that this was “bad guys killing bad guys”. Nobody believed it, but we Thais didn’t really care. As far as we were concerned, justice had been served.

But a few people in the political establishment, including close allies like the US, decided it was time to tap Thaksin on the shoulder and remind him, as leader of the Thai government, that controversial policies using body counts as the benchmark for success could damage bilateral ties with foreign countries, who often restrict cooperation with governments that grossly abuse their power. The Thaksin administration duly came to its senses and the killing stopped.

Sad to say, a society that opts for such a heavy-handed solution however controversial it may be, is a weak society. It is one that can be easily exploited and manipulated even in the face of glaring contradictions with its traditional values.

Remember the topless Songkran girls dancing on the back of a truck on Silom Road? They were just metres away from rows of topless-dancer go-go bars. We were angry but we didn’t really know why. Perhaps the word “contradiction” is an understatement when it comes to describing our society.

While most political parties have invested heavily in trying to understand what makes Thai people tick, we seem to have lost sight of more basic but important things. Integrity, honesty, generosity, humility and other important virtues are hard to find nowadays when we speak of governance.

We see things the way we want to see them, and along the way we compromise our own values for short-term gains. Instead of defending the ground rules we instead ask, “What’s my cut? What’s in it for me?”

Along with the controversial drug war, Thai people have tolerated a culture of impunity – but as long it was only for members of their own political and social camp.

The Pheu Thai Party accused the outgoing Democrat-led Government of not moving fast enough in bringing the yellow shirts to justice for occupying Suvarnabhumi Airport and Government House when pro-Thaksin administrations were in place.

The ball is now in Pheu Thai’s court and it remains to be seen how its incoming government will handle the red-shirt leaders who called on their supporters to turn Bangkok and city halls around the country into a sea of fire.

The bottom line is that we have to have an ethical standard, and the law of the land and the country’s constitution is not a bad place on which to peg our moral and political integrity.

We may have lost our bearings when it comes to calibrating our moral compass, as our reaction to the Songkran dancing girls suggests, not to mention that many of us keep re-electing gangster-politicians despite knowing full well of their past deeds. But let’s not allow the ongoing political divide to get the better of us. Let the law of the land serve as our equilibrium – the ground rule that must be upheld by any means necessary.

We cannot be fooled by the shallow logic that a blanket amnesty will make everything okay and enable us to move forward, mapping our future on a clean slate. Justice must be rendered regardless of the colour of one’s shirt, political affiliation or uniform.

Too many have lost their lives and too much damage has been done. Justice must be swift, effective and “blind” and all the wounds and scars must be addressed. Otherwise, we as a nation will never close this bitter chapter that pitted Thai citizens against one another.

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