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Where is Justice?

“We can rope off politics within our lives. But our lives are never severed from politics. We don’t mess with it – it messes with us.”

        

My feeling is that all in Thai society, even the youth, have a clearer view of justice since the coup. To put it simply, the NCPO came into power and justice departed. Destination unknown.

When there is no justice in the land, then no one can truly comprehend justice. When no one witnesses justice in the land, then the people cannot grasp the urgent necessity of justice. In the absence of belief in justice in the land, then dictatorship can flourish.

Where is justice? I think justice is in everyone. Why do I say this? If the judicial process crumbles, if the spirit of the law changes, or if the law is produced by a coup, then the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers is affected. If the system of checks and balances cannot operate as usual, then the duty of checking power falls to everyone, including old people, young people, whoever. But to put it simply, no one dares to perform this duty. Everyone is completely afraid. (Hey, who is going to dare to do so when it may impact one’s position, family and work?) So, the system and structure of laws, including the system and structure of independent organizations (which are not independent) are unable to perform this duty. In the end, the individuals who comprise society must be the checks and balances. It’s like Thomas Jefferson said,

“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”

A Thai elaborated upon this and said that, “In truth, it should be like Mr. Jefferson said. But not in Thailand …(it seems).”

The fascinating aspect of this is that everyone knows. I believe that as life passes, we perhaps also feel that sometimes, in some instances, we did not get justice. But we let it go. And life goes on and on until we become accustomed to it and justice departs.

Everyone I encounter knows and comprehends this problem. When I ask why don’t we make it better, everyone responds by saying that there is nothing we can do. We are merely thin reeds. How are we going to dislodge a heavy log?

That’s right. We are merely thin reeds. But wherever one goes, there are only reeds. I’ve never met up with a heavy log. If you don’t believe me, ask those around you.

The next question is why are people content with thinking there is nothing we can do? Why are people content to think that we can change nothing at all? In actuality, the problem doesn’t reside with any given person, but with the way of thinking that there is nothing that we can do to improve anything. This kind of thinking results in defeat before we even start. Let me sketch a simple picture: imagine what happens when natural disaster strikes. Houses collapse. People are injured, fall down, die. Belongings are destroyed and lost. If we leave rebuilding to officialdom, it’s unlikely to be enough. Everyone helps out. They provide labor, funds, goods, and more and the situation improves rapidly. Everyone always pitches in to overcome the obstacles left in the wake of a natural disaster, no matter how severe.

And what of political disasters? Why doesn’t everyone lend a hand? What is fascinating is that those who wanted to help were divided into color-coded groups [yellow shirts and red shirts—trans.] This led to disunity. Thin reeds were trying to dislodge other thin reeds. Politics came to seem distant and boring. Every political discussion turned into an argument. Don’t talk about politics. Better to talk about something fun. You can talk about politics, but then what can you do beyond that? This kind of thinking is why we cannot do anything. Everyone has adapted to co-exist with the problem, even though they know it remains. But they don’t know what to do, or their apathy makes them uninterested, as if this is not an issue that pertains to them.

But … slow down, big guy. We can rope off politics within our lives. But our lives are never severed from politics. We don’t mess with it – it messes with us.

Given the diverse range of views on the justice that has disappeared, I cannot offer a conclusion of what kind of thinking is correct, what kind of thinking is wrong, what kind of thinking is good, and what kind of thinking is bad, nor do I wish to do so.  

If you wonder “Why? Why could that person do it and that one could not? Why could that group do it and that group couldn’t? Why could that party do it and that party couldn’t? Or even an instance of the same action resulting in completely different outcomes, or the question of whether really, it can be like this? Something like this.” If you wonder about these things and are confused, then you will be my friend because I don’t understand either. Last but not least.

Originally published in Thai as: ไผ่ ดาวดิน, “Where is Justice? ความยุติธรรมอยู่ที่ไหน?” 2019: So What Thailand? (Intelligenzia ฉบับที่ 2), July 2019, 103-105.

Translated by Tyrell Haberkorn.