NOTHING could have summed up Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-o-cha's attitude toward his goal of national reconciliation than his own words in a speech made last week.
"We have to try to reduce all sorts of conflicts. How can we cut down on moving trash? We must eradicate human trash ['kaya manut'] from this country," he said.
Though his decision to refer to some of his countrymen as human trash may be appalling and disturbing, it's good that he did not say nice things that he doesn't believe in.
Instead, he was sincere - putting his enemies in the same category as "human trash" and calling for our removal.
Sadly, this sentiment has been plaguing Thailand for at least a decade - the belief that those on the other side of the political divide are not just wrong, but are enemies that need to be "removed".
Prayuth has proved that he is only human, by succumbing to political hatred and referring to his opponents as human trash. And he's not alone. I reckon hundreds of thousands of Thais, if not more, have succumbed to political hatred - seeing anybody whose thoughts on politics are different from their own as not just their enemy, but something less than human.
Countries like Cambodia went through a period of self-destruction. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, some 2 million of the 8-million population were killed for the sake of a political ideology that saw "the other" as an enemy that had to be eradicated.
While Thailand is far from becoming another killing field of that scale, the seeds of mutual destruction are quite visible as they continue being nurtured by hate speech on social media and watered by remarks from people like Prayuth.
This intolerance is now driven by the fact that political debate and struggle has become "moralised" to the point where people are starting to see the others, not as fellow Thais, but as amoral political enemies, who have to be suppressed if they can't be eradicated.
The Thai educational system is partly to be blamed for this, as it teaches people that there can only be one absolute and correct answer to everything. However, this logic can only be applied to pure science, not social sciences.
Thus, when Thais become self-righteous and think they are correct, they genuinely believe that those who disagree with them must be wrong and evil - perhaps "human trash".
Thais need to realise that simply because everybody isn't on the same side of politics, does not necessarily mean they have to hate and deem those on the other side as downright evil.
When I arrived at the military camp outside Bangkok, where I was detained for a week without charge after the coup last year, I told the commander and his deputies that I did not hold any personal grudges against them or the military junta.
I just explained that I love democracy and freedom, that this was definitely not a personal conflict. And my beliefs have remained unchanged - even though we've been under military rule for a year now and even after Prayuth says he wants to eradicate us "human trash".