- Posted December 6, 2013 by
Only in Thailand
In Thailand, on the evening of 5th of December, the nation celebrated the King’s birthday. There was peace and calm in the country.
This might confuse some people outsideThailand because only 2 days ago Bangkok, thailand capital, was under war. The sea of people attempted to siege the barricaded Government house and the Police Head Quarter: the symbol of Government and its prime machinery to suppress demonstrators in the past.
Only on December 2nd, the air was think with chemical smoke as police force on duty fired countless numbers of tear gas bombs at demonstrators.
On the 3rd of December, Government turned around and open the gates to allow demonstrators in. No tear gas bombs were in sight anywhere. Only a large batch of small bags of gasoline were shown by demonstrators. This made people wonder whether the image was true and if so what was the intent of such things in the Police heard quarter compound.
On December 4th, demonstrators turned themselves into city workers, cleaning the avenue that they had occupied for the previous 30 days. The next day the very stage of the heat speeches was decorated with fresh flowers and the evening was pleasant.
The nation was still divided even under unified event. While the demonstrators, led by Mr. Suthep , held stage at the Democracy monument and filled up Rajdamnoen Avenue to celebrate the occasion, the Prime Minister and her cabinet attended a separate function at Sanam Luang, located at the other end of the very same avenue in the event organized annually by a Foundation.
The television pool broadcasted the semi official function in full, and co ordinated to broadcast the events held at the thai embassies worldwide. The event at Rajdamnoen and several provincial towns throughout the country were conspicuously absent from the news. The event at Rajdamnoen was mentioned in passing as “a group of Thai people” as though it was such a normal and mundane things. The name of the leader and events in 2 other major sites and in all provincial townships were not mentioned.
In fact, Thailand has been deeply divided because of different set of information and value each citizen received or held on to. The practice of reasonable debate and dialogue to compare and iron out difference was obviously missing at every level, from streets to schools, from family to workplace.
During the uneasy truce of December 5th, I had a chance to review news of the previous month and here are some relevant issues. Most of them had to do with corruption and what should be the good practice of an elected governing body under constitution... challenging issues both for the people who want a democratic regime and those foreign governments that advocate democracy for all countries through free election.
1. Does corruption matter?
The demonstrator thought so. So they took to the street to show their disapproval of the amnesty bill that gives amnesty to all corruption issues as well. All corruption cases in court will be dropped automatically.
What is the position of the other nations on this? While they disapprove of corruption of their officers and politicians, will they support the demonstrator case and pressure the government on such issue or support the government simply because it was elected?
2. Do elected government and elected parliament with absolute majority have absolute power on how to run the country?
Demonstrators came out, at one systematic count more than 1 million, to express their minority opinion, but minority rights are not on in the mind of the government and parliament.
The question is whether the majority can do no wrong, and can correct any wrong by legislate it into a right.
3. At least one cabinet member was shown in VDO clip a few years ago as urging the demonstrators to turn into mobs to burn down the city. Is such action deemed proper for a person to hold a high ranking political office?
4. Should cabinet members support counter-demonstrators held in an official compound, an indoor stadium, and gave rousing speech in such congregation?
5. What should the government do when its police force said that they could not get into the shooting site where unidentified group of men fired into a university campus hurting and killing students while a garbage truck of the metropolitan administration and soldiers could get there easily?
6. Are some parliamentarians still legitimate when the constitutional court ruled that their actions are fraudulent, such as allowing fellow parliamentarians to vote for them? What is a good practice in a democratic society? The demonstrators have demand some action but Thai politicians said they would not accept the ruling of the constitutional court.
7. What should a Prime Minister in a democratic country do when a bill being passed by the majority was opposed by a huge numbers of demonstrators far beyond the number required by the constitution to reconsider the bill? And when the Constitutional court ruled that the amendment to the constitution was unconstitutional?
In Thailand, the Prime Minister went ahead and sent the bill to be passed into law. The ruling of the constitutional court was ignored.
Many more people took to streets on this count.
What should a country that advocates democracy through election do? Should they stand still now and continue blindly to advocate an election regardless of the action after that? Doesn’t democratic process matter?
The demonstration in the streets of Thai capital and elsewhere in Thailand until now feel that a democratic process matters very much.
Democracy is not the free ticket for anyone to violate the very process that support the system.
A lot of people feared the looming figure of the fugitive Prime Minister as the mastermind to control the country and pulled Thailand to the irreversible path of economic and moral bankruptcy. But that is another point.
Some analysts try to show the opposing force that bring about confrontation: the elite vs the poor, the city vs the rural population, the have vs the have not (in terms of wealth). But since both sides have people from all walks of life, and very economic strata, perhaps the real issue is the have vs the have not (in terms of analytical information), the regard vs the disregard of the democratic process. Or perhaps it is an issue as a former Thai prime minister put it a few years back: There is no neutral ground between right and wrong.
Bangkok, Dec. 6, 2013