It has been a difficult couple of weeks for the national security watchdogs in the Ministry of Interior.
First they attempted to stop a stateless 12-year-old paper folder from attending a paper plane competition in Japan.
If Mong Thongdee were given permission to travel and the necessary documents like a use-once passport, they argued, there would be a deluge of similar requests from all those other Thailand-born children of Shan or other immigrants who were expert in folding paper planes and had won entry to competitions in foreign countries. But their efforts were scotched by the compelling compassionate photo op this created for the government to divert public attention from whatever national crisis was looming that day.
No sooner had one illegal immigrant flown the coop (though with a return ticket, a minder and travel documents that expire as soon as he’s back on Thai soil) than a 14-year-old Lahu girl, again with no official claim to be Thai at all, goes and wins the panda-naming competition. Naruay Jaterng thereby earned herself a 100,000 baht cash prize and also a ticket to China, but again, only if she can somehow be granted permission and travel documents.
The atmosphere was therefore somewhat fraught when the Reaction Against Cultural Identity Slippage in Thailand working group next met for their regular Monday morning meeting at the MoI. Prachatai has obtained a secret recording of this meeting and the following is taken from an unofficial translation of an unofficial transcript of the unofficial recording. Of an official meeting.
“See? I told you. Let just one of them slip out and it turns into an avalanche.”
“I hardly think 2 cases qualify as an avalanche. And there can’t be that many paper-plane making and panda-naming competitions.”
“How do we know that? Did you know that illegal aliens were being allowed to name that panda? This is something for Thais and Thais alone. They should have made it a rule that only Thais were allowed to suggest Chinese-sounding names for a Chinese animal.”
“Well, perhaps so, but they didn’t, and …”
“And a cash prize, for heaven’s sake. What is a 14-year-old Yahoo going to with all that money? It’ll just turn the poor girl’s head.”
“Lahu, not Yahoo.”
“I think we should take the money from her and put it into trust or something. For national security purposes.”
“National security? How do you …”
“Who knows what evil plans she has for spending that money? She could use it to buy land …”
“She can’t, she has no citizenship papers.”
“… and then sell it on some Arab business friends of He Who Must Not Be Named.”
“But that’s not possible …”
“They then use the land, Thai land, to grow crops, which they will promptly send out of the country. This is theft from the motherland, pure and simple.”
“It’s also called agricultural exports and has been government policy for years.”
“That’s a completely different thing. That is when stalwart Thai farmers grow crops on patriotic Thai soil. From that we get genuinely Thai produce. If we decide, in the interests of the nation, to offer these Thai goods in trade with other countries, then that is our right, nay, even our duty to the country. Foreigners doing it out of sheer greed, it’s not the same thing at all and I’m surprised you should even mention it.”
“Well, OK, but how are we going to stop any more cases like the paper-folder and the panda-namer?”
“Well, it’s obvious. We must nip this in the bud, remove the root cause, and prevent any such things happening ever again.”
“You mean stop non-Thais from learning how to make paper airplanes?”
“And ban them from entering naming competitions?”
“Exactly. And any other activity that might turn into an excuse to flee the country or embarrass the government.”
“Well, we don’t want any of these aliens qualifying for the Olympics or any national sports teams, so a ban on all sports. Then there are all these international physics and mathematics fairs where we do so well and win prizes. So no education for them either. If they get religious they’ll only start agitating for a pilgrimage to India or Mecca or somewhere, so no religion allowed.”
“I think we may be running into trouble with the human rights people there.”
“And that’s another thing. They mustn’t become the victims of human rights violations or those cry-babies from the UN will start interfering.”
“But if you deny them education, religion, and so on, how do we stop them becoming victims of human rights violations?”
“Simple. Stop accepting them as humans. If they’re not humans, they have no human rights, do they?”
“I don’t know. That sounds a bit extreme. We might run into trouble with that.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well, you wouldn’t want anyone calling members of the RACIST working group racist, would you?”
About author: Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).