Tarit is a sad reflection of Thai bureaucracy

opinion September 15, 2014 01:00

By The Nation

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Victim or otherwise, the former DSI chief represents many flaws of our political and justice systems

In a recent interview, controversial chameleon Tarit Pengdit described himself as a victim. The former chief of the Department of Special Investigation has been on his way down after the coup in May, facing investigation and court cases and receiving little sympathy from the public. 
“I was just a bureaucrat who followed orders,” he said. 
It was a tell-tale statement, whether one feels for the guy or not.
Many think he’s getting what he justly deserves. Tarit pulled no punches against the red shirts when the Democrats were in power, spearheading the crackdown on “terrorists”. 
There were videos of him denouncing the red shirts’ activities. 
His agency was instrumental in criminalising some activists and chasing the sources of red shirts’ funding. When the Pheu Thai Party came to power, Tarit’s DSI turned against the Democrats in the most audacious manner. Old cases were ignored, and he became the man leading the hunt for the “hunters” of the red shirts.
That Tarit is blaming politicians for his plight tells a lot about him. In his interview, he said he had no choice. In fact, he did. He could have defied his political bosses, who could have, at worst, seen him sacked. 
But Tarit was is one of the conservative bureaucrats who cannot stand being fired under whatever circumstances. 
He could have chosen to follow his true conscience and leave the job with his head held high. Instead, he opted to stay on and became one of the high-profile chameleons in the Thai political crisis.
In the interview, he implied that the nature of his agency’s work forced him to change colours, depending on who turned out to be his boss. This reflected his mentality or how he perceived the Department of Special Investigation. 
By suggesting the agency was nothing but a political tool, he probably should blame himself for deciding to work as a political tool. By suggesting the agency was a political tool after having decided to keep on working in it, and then complaining, doesn’t make sense.
Whether or how the DSI should be reformed is an entirely different question. This is about a man and his honour or dignity. Tarit chose to be the “victim” to say the least. There were times when he could have told the public the truth. He could have leaked truthful information to the media. He could have openly defied either the Democrat government or the Yingluck administration, doing what his heart told him. He could have just said “Sack me. I didn’t sign up for this”. Tarit did none of those.
We don’t know how many bureaucrats are like him, but we cannot be optimistic. Many people love to go with the flow, but Tarit’s former agency has no room for that. The DSI is supposed to uphold justice – pure and simple. Being a political tool is the last thing it should be, because it’s simply a Gestapo otherwise.
The reputation of the DSI has been left in tatters. Its credibility has almost totally evaporated. 
Tarit has blamed politicians but he of all people should know who else are at fault. If he sincerely does not know, and if many top bureaucrats are like him and think like him, the long, hard road of Thailand’s bureaucracy is a lot longer and harder than we thought.

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