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Is Sondhi's PAD now a brainwashed political cult?

So the prophet said it over the weekend: "If by dying the country will improve, let death visit us today. It's better than being alive otherwise".

These Davidian-like words were from no other than the supreme prophet, Sondhi Limthongkul, leader of the self-styled anti-Thaksin and anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy on Saturday, as he anticipated a possible clash with the police as the government tried to re-capture Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, invaded and occupied by the protesters.

Today the PAD movement resembles a political cult. Sondhi himself was a former cheerleader of Thaksin Shinawatra but is now a repentant man on a mission to eradicate Thaksin and his proxy from power. This gives him an almost messianic aura and mission. And there are rituals PAD supporters have gone through over the past two years, in order to prepare them for their "final battle". Never mind if the expression "final battle" has been used many times by PAD leadership - like some born-again Christians who await the Judgement Day, the date can always be re-set to fit the expired deadline.

One daily ritual PAD followers and members go through at their protest sites is the highly frenzied clapping of hands and cheering, encouraged by their five leaders who appear on stage almost every evening. Co-leaders like Sondhi and Somsak Kosaisuk, and others, enter the stage and lift their hands with palms upward, exciting their followers into frenzies. There's also the daily queue for free donated hot meals at the site; and T-shirts glorifying the leaders and their cause to protect the monarchy and promote their controversial "New Politics" of governance. Daily one-sided news and analysis feeds followers through ASTV satellite television and the Manager Group of newspapers. Even plastic Swatch-like watches with faces of the five PAD co-leaders can be purchased for Bt199 at Government House.

This, along with the good and bad times, and the loss of life and injuries among fellow followers, has bonded them.

Gathering in large numbers creates a sense of what anthropologists call "communitas": a heightened bond which threatens law and order as the mob feels invincible and empowered by its sheer numbers.

This kind of ritual and experience has been fostered over the months and it's wrong to simply blame the leaders for brainwashing their followers. The supporters' frenzied response and support has created a mutual brainwashing of the leaders too. A leader like Sondhi must be heavily intoxicated by his own propaganda, as if he is capable of ordering his people to do anything and at whatever cost.

These prophets also promote the worshipping of the Thai monarchy institution. Everyone was encouraged to wear yellow, symbolising the present King. But whether people like Sondhi are true royalists is debatable. The media's inability to discuss the role of the Thai monarchy due to censorship laws and culture has hampered the analysis and understanding of the current political crisis, to say the least.

As for Thaksin. PAD followers do not just hate his actions but deeply abhor the man, his cronies and proxies including Somchai Wongsawat. Thaksin to them is like Satan, and must be destroyed.

It's thus a zero-sum game in their view and no price is too high. Never mind the Thai economy is now reeling from the shutting down of two airports, their prophet claims they would rather die than allow the current regime and Thaksin to cling to power.

Sondhi himself told the PM to first resign, then they would negotiate. But what is left to negotiate? Such a remark reflects how out of touch the PAD leader has become.

After months of mutual brainwashing, and with the majority of Thai mainstream media nurturing and uncritically psupporting them, these people no longer dwell in rationality, law and responsibility. By now, the PAD has grown into a self-righteous semi-fascist monster propelled by its own intolerant political cult willing to ruin Thailand in order to achieve its elusive political "salvation".

They may have left the airports now, but in their victory statement, the PAD leaders didn't even offer any word of apology or contrition for the immense damage they have caused.

The question now is what to do with these people who may return to the streets sooner than anyone expected?

Source: 
<p>http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2008/12/05/politics/politics_30090273.php</p>

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