Monday, April 20, 2009

The soul of the country - Thailand

Bangkok Post - I would like to make a few observations about Thailand. They are all pertinent to the recent political situation, but they look at different issues that have arisen from the crisis.

1. What is the democratic justification used to rationalise permitting a convicted felon, who has fled from detention in his home country and has a large following and bank account, to freely call in to foment revolution?

I cannot think of examples from countries like the US, France, the UK or Germany where this has happened.

2. How can people realistically compare the behaviour of the red shirts with that of the yellow shirts?

The latter certainly are not to be exonerated in what they did.

But the red shirts took their protest to levels that the yellow shirts never even verged on. The yellow shirts were non-violent (with a few exceptions, but these were mostly defensive actions).

The red shirts behaved as animals, with an overt aim to destroy and injure. No government officials were dragged from their cars and beaten by the PAD, whereas as the UDD made clear in their actions and rhetoric this was one of their tactics.

The PAD did not engage in the wanton destruction of property of ordinary citizens, whereas the UDD did so with reckless abandon, seemingly enjoying it. And the PAD did not murder fellow citizens in cold blood, as did the UDD in Bangkok. Any comparison between the two groups ended when the UDD actively tried to create a revolution in the streets.

They are animals.

3. Why do Thais seem to be so concerned about how they look in the eyes of the world, rather than with the inherent righteousness of what is happening?

I have lived in the US, Latin America and Europe, and never have I heard so consistently some variation of the phrase, ''what will the world think?'' which is so often used by Thais when discussing problems in the country (political strife, corruption, etc). Why can't Thais learn to evaluate and justify actions (or criticisms) based on what is right, ie, inherently moral, ethical, honest, decent, etc.

Instead, they are much more concerned with what the outside world thinks.

Is there no set of universal ''rights'' in Buddhism? We all know that there is, but since they are rarely presented in this context, one assumes that they are not persuasive arguments to use when trying to influence behaviour.

4. When will Thais realise that what is happening in politics right now is a battle for the soul of the country? So many groups are up in arms about what this is doing to (for instance) tourism, investment or business in general.

It is understandable why people in the tourism industry, who may be forced out of business or a job, lament the effects that the situation is having on them. But they are missing the point.

The people in these movements may care a lot about Thailand, but they don't give one damn about the effects that their actions are having on the country's economy. In their minds, they are fighting for a much higher cause than simply maintaining the tourist numbers. It is the soul of the country that they are trying to effect.


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