'Thainess' cannot be threatened by mere symbolic gestures
June 18, 2014 00:00
By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Junta chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha has banned the flashing of the three-finger salute, which was borrowed from the Hollywood film "The Hunger Games".
Prayuth’s argument is that these salutes are essentially “foreign”.
Now, it’s understandable why the junta might want to nip anti-coup sentiments in the bud, but arresting middle-aged men and women for holding up three fingers could be taking it too far.
Plus, arguing that the “Hunger Games” salute is foreign and hence not suited to Thais, Prayuth could open a can of worms.
Prayuth himself was caught flashing a three-finger salute – in this case it was the international gesture for love, which originated from the American sign-language representing the letters I, L and Y.
So, the junta may have to go the whole hog if it wants to rid Thailand of all cultural borrowings.
However, it may want to consider the things we have borrowed not just from the foreign standpoint, but also look at why these things were borrowed and if they have any merit.
Besides, claiming that something is undesirable just because it is non-Thai can be considered rather xenophobic.
Therefore, when Prayuth’s deputy, Lt-General Kampanart Ruddit, was quoted by a newspaper on Sunday as saying that he wanted to see Thailand emulate China because it’s an Asian country can be a bit confusing. Not only is China not a proper democracy, but it is foreign. Also, why not emulate other more democratic and freer Asian societies like Japan or South Korea instead?
Another crucial point here is that Thais need to stop claiming that as a society they are homogenous and of a similar mindset.
There’s no “single” Thai way of seeing things.
There’s one side that seems to be rejoicing that a coup has been staged and that there is a crackdown on dissidents. Then there is another side in which people are willing to risk their personal freedom to voice opposition, claiming their cherished values of liberty and democracy.
In other words, “Thainess” cannot be monopolised, as it makes up a pluralistic, complex and open society.