This is lese majeste? III: Society at risk, for goodness; sake-PPT
June 10, 2012
[FACT comments: We have posted all seven of Pravit’s original articles at Prachatai in Thai to FACTsite. As they are translated, we, like PPT, will be posting them in English. Frankly, no thinking person can consider any of Pravit’s work lèse majesté. Pravit, both personally and professionally, knows exactly where the line defining criminality is.]
This is lese majeste? III: ปัญหาความดีของ “คนดี”
Our third post (see one and two) related to the accusation that Pravit Rojanaphruk has committed lese majeste with seven items listed as evidence. This is the third, from Prachatai in 2011. It was also at The Nation, and is still there [FACT: Not anymore!].
Society at risk, for goodness’ sake
Pravit Rojanaphruk, The Nation
Political Prisoners in Thailand: June 29, 2012
Thai society appears heavily afflicted by the cult of the “good person”. Vote for “good people”, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha said this month. Many more have expressed similar views as the general election draws near.
The problem is, whose “good people” should we vote for and how is a “good person” defined?
The belief that there exists a single, universally accepted notion of a good person/politician too conveniently neglects the fact that there exist competing ideologies, interests and classes that would certainly ensure different notions of good person/politician in any society.
Consider some aspects of the following “good people”.
“Good person” No 1: Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the Democrat Party, is a “good man” in the eyes of his supporters. This is despite the fact that in late 2008, the “Democrat” Party dispatched a very senior member to hold the crucial government-coalition talks at the residence of then Army chief General Anuphong Paochinda. The Army has since expanded its influence in politics with no “withdrawal date” set.
Abhisit is a “good man” to his supporters even though he presided over the bloodiest military suppression in Bangkok’s history. Between April and May 2010, at least 92 persons died, mostly red shirts, and 2,000 were injured. Not a single letter of condolence from this “good man” was ever sent to any relatives of the largely unarmed red shirts who were killed.
This “good man” (khon dee) did express regret a year later. However, it came just a week before the general election, after he trailed big in all public polls, and at a political campaign rally. He also had conveniently forgotten to point out that the burning of buildings in Bangkok and elsewhere came after the month-long bloody suppression, and did not take place right after the first slaughter of 20 people on April 10.
“Good person” No 2: Thaksin Shinawatra is a good man from his supporters’/fans’ perspective. His supporters do not really recall (or care for?) the 2,000-plus extrajudicial killings during Thaksin’s war on drugs or the deadly Tak Bai/Krue Se incidents in the deep South. Never mind if Thaksin was corrupt, abusive, authoritarian and even a megalomaniac in the eyes of millions while in power, because millions more Thais adore the man and his populist policies. Thus his younger sister, the Pheu Thai Party’s prime-ministerial candidate Yingluck, must be good too.
“Good person” No 3: Army chief Prayuth. He is “good” despite crucially taking part in the September 2006 military coup and the bloody crackdown of April-May 2010.
“Good person” No 4: Yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul is a “good man” to his followers although his current “Vote No” campaign is a slightly veiled open invitation for another Army/invisible hand(s) to meddle “legitimately” in post-election politics.
“Good person” No 4, No 5 and more? The so-called “invisible hand(s)” are also still seen by millions as a “good bunch of special people”. They manipulate politics from behind and through proxies and propaganda while the mainstream media either support them or, out of fear of “legal” prosecution and social sanction, simply exercise self-censorship. A large but decreasing number of Thais still believe in their “goodness” despite rumours, critical private discussions and the lack of transparency, accountability and legitimacy.
Many Thais continue to root for their good people. Like football hooligans, it doesn’t matter whether the referee is right or wrong, they will boo him if the call goes against their team. Their team can do no wrong.
Thailand is ruled by these “good people” to the point where the rule of law, free and fair elections, voices of the voters, good governance, transparency and accountability count for little. Many simply want their good man/woman to rule the country, through whatever means, because of their “goodness”.