Friday, November 09, 2007

(Almost) The Same Old Politics

With a return to my hectic student's life - papers, exams, parties and everything - I have not been writing my blog for a big while. But upon reading a series of political stories from Thailand, I could no longer remain silent.

The leaked National Security Council document. The strict (and, I must say, stupid) election rules announced by the Election Commission. The same old switching and re-switching of parties among politicians. Continued violence in the deep south. And, worst of all, the controversial security bill which has just been passed!

To be honest, witnessing all these developments, I see no bright future for Thailand. And my gut feeling is suggesting that the worst is yet to come.


Let's turn back the clock to Septermber 2006. In the wake of the coup, the junta leaders assured the public that their sole intention for staging the coup was to resolve the conflict, reform the politics and restore democracy as soon as possible.

Many people in Thailand also voiced their support for the coup on various grounds: It would end Thaksin corrupt regime, it would help resolve political conflict and restore stability, it would help "reform" politics, and so on...

How seriously wrong they all were.

1 year, 1 month and 20 days have passed since the coup took place, and what has Thailand achieved?

Political stability? Political reform? Democratic progress? Peace in the south? - Are you serious?
I think the story is more like this: Deepened political division. Stupid constitution. Continued southern violence. Abuse of power by the junta. Same old politicians in the coming election.

And the worst part: an attempt to bring Thai politics back to the same old elite-centric "bureaucratic polity".

Who matters the most in Thai politics? Who makes decisions on how to govern the country?

The answer is the elites! The military and some civilian bureaucratic elites!

Ok, perhaps not just the elites, but also the upper- and middle-class people in Bangkok. I repeat, people in Bangkok.

What about the 50 million rural people? Well, they get to vote! Oh well, how could I forget that they also has the special privilege to witness their elected government overthrown by a group of elites who claim to be "acting for the best interest of the Thai people".

What are some of their ideas of "the best interest of the people"? Well, I guess they include things like putting the junta people in the Board of state enterprises, trying to make sure the People Power Party doesn't win the election, pushing for such a law as the Security Bill.

And, of course, increasing military budget and buying military jets.

"In the best interest of the people" my ass.

Pardon me for the use of inappropriate words. I don't normally like to be rude or scold at people, but given what Thailand has gone through in the past few years, I think many people deserve a slap on their face.

In my opinion, many members of the press, the academia, and civil society leaders who backed the coup in 2006 should stand up and say to themselves that they have been seriously wrong.

By now, I hope they have learned the lesson that although Thaksin was bad, a coup would not do any good to Thailand either.

"Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Instead of relying on undemocratic means (such as coup) to resolve political conflict or remove a corrupt government, we all should come together and think of ways to foster the devlopment of democracy in Thailand.

We should stop criticizing democracy about its weaknesses (such as "election is irrelevant because vote-buying is rampant", "the court system and anti-corruption institutions were ineffective").

We should stop using these weaknesses of our democratic system as an excuse for accepting an undemocratic solution to political problems. In other words, let's stop running away from the fundamental problem.

Instead, we must all help MAKE DEMOCRACY FUNCTIONS BETTER in our society. There can be no more excuse for another coup in the future. We must grow up together.

If there is something positive in Thai politics, I believe it's the fact that many people who used to back the junta have now turned their backs on the junta. I believe they have learned that Thailand has become a complex place, with many diverse interests, and the kind of politics we have had will not do any good to our increasingly complex society facing increasingly complex challenges.

We must not rely on the king or the military to intervene every time the country runs into political conflict. That won't tackle the root of the problem, it's as simple as that.

We need to find better ways to resolve our differences peacefully. How do we do that? Like many other changes, I believe this change must start from within.

We need to change our attitudes toward democracy, toward the people. We must treat all Thais as equal: a rural poor person's opinion and vote (whether it has been "bought" or not) should count as one, just like a military elite's vote.

Thailand is going nowhere without this fundamental change in its people's attitudes.

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