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It’s time Thai society spoke frankly: Thoughts on Kasian Techapira’s PAD article

Kasian Techapira on the PAD's ‘general uprising' provides some insights into ‘the flaws and dysfunction of the existing electoral parliamentary democracy', and the movement of the so-called People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).  He points out that in his view, ‘the PAD's most worrying trend is its stance towards the ethics of means'.

In my opinion, no matter how much information and how many points the article tries to raise and discuss, it is still insufficient.  Because an analysis of ‘the PAD's general uprising' needs to address a particular fact, which for some (un)known reasons is unsaid in the article.  It is a cause for concern that, if only what is discussed in the article is brought to support the conclusion that, ‘we have reached this point today because of all the minor and major mistakes, deliberately and accidentally, done by people on both sides', the article would in the end be used just to support the argument that the current crisis only results from mistakes done by the adversaries who are equally evil.

The argument of ‘mistakes from both sides' can be accepted without question only when the battle ground is not Thai society, or, on the other hand, with Thai society being the battle ground, the article does an analysis and comes to the conclusion, without taking into account a crucial context.

Such context is the 'uniqueness of Thai society', of which everybody including Kasian knows well, but we all have tried not to mention or recognize it publicly.    

Under the unique circumstance of Thai society,

1.     Certain ideologies are more equal than the others, in terms of acceptance or refusal by choice, or merely criticism.


2.    The more extreme the demonstration of people's public commitment to a certain ideology, the more forceful their dismissal of other ideologies or individuals and rational arguments from the political space.

3.     Not only can straightforward criticism not be expressed, simply not identifying with 'a certain ideology' risks being subject to a charge of being against it, with a penalty that is too frightening.

4.    The culture of rational analysis and argumentation in political and social issues is weak, as usually seen when well-researched works are vehemently dismissed and opposed by even those who never read them, while hearsay or word of mouth is often held and readily used to arouse violent sentiments.


So the spreading of hatred throughout Thai society and the current crisis we are now facing do not result from the PAD's far-off use of ‘certain means' to widen its support base and legitimize its movement alone, or the evil government, rather a product of Thai society.

Kasian criticizes the PAD for having ‘readily used any weapons including lèse majesté allegations, the Preah Vihear dispute, etc., to arouse people to rise up against the government and Thaksin', but stops short of saying that the PAD can get so carried away with ‘a certain means', so effectively that it can build its movement up to this point, because of the ‘uniqueness of Thai society'.

The not-tell-all article might help validate a vision based on imagined ethics that the current crisis results from two equally evil sides-one side being politicians whose evil behaviour might come from evil ends, and the other side whose evil means might lead to evil ends.  And ‘good guys' would be called on to uphold the temporary stability, as has happened many times before.

Or even worse, it would be used to support the antiquated notion that electoral democracy does not suit Thai society, only causing rifts time and time again, because the people are still ignorant, falling victim to vote buying.  Anything can happen, in this unique society.

All in all, this will likely end and be bygone, without any lessons learned by Thai society, as ever.

If that is not to be desired, it is time we need to talk frankly and learn some lessons.

If not, even if we can avoid the abyss this time, as long as we still feign not to see certain facts, we will always come around in a circle to the edge of the abyss, until we finally plunge into it again.

Let's be brave and admit that the important factor that has brought us to the brink today is that we all have helped build and maintain this very ‘uniqueness' of Thai society, that is like an unspeakable and rough geographical terrain.      


(Karnt Thassanaphak, Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowships Program)       


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