A questionable moral high ground

opinion June 18, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

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PM’s attacks on the dance moves of a luk-thung singer were unnecessary; he should pick better targets 

It might be an understatement to dub as pretentious Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s recent outburst at luk-thung singer Lamyai Haithongkham because of her dance routine and skimpy outfits.

Trying to sound holier than thou, Prayut said he was disturbed by her performance. 

Like it or not, Lamyai’s signature dance move – a nine-level twerking routine – have rattled the imagination of many in the country. Conservatives in the country think it’s too much while others think it’s just entertainment. The clash of ideas makes Thailand look like a country of contradictions, with a clash of values, and therefore the country’s leader may have felt he had to say 


National leaders expressing concerns on moral issues is nothing new and should be welcomed. But as a public figure, it is important that one not come across as arrogant. They cannot be mouthing personal preferences and imposing their morality on the people. And that’s where Prayut has gone astray. Instead of talking about his own likes or dislikes, 

perhaps he could have turned the focus to the industry and the 

conditions that produce such 

questionable values. 

Some of us might condone his condescension, after all he spent his professional life receiving and issuing orders before coming to power through a military coup. Politics and public relations were not really part of his skill set.

Prayut’s stated mission after 

coming to power was to bring peace and order to the country and to rid the nation’s political culture of 


While Prayut is very sensitive about Lamyai’s suggestive moves, 

he seems thickskinned about 

criticism of his own performance as a national leader.

Perhaps he should look around at his peers and see how morally upright they are and start with them.

Thai soldiers may not be twerking but the manner in which they carry themselves suggests a belief in their immunity, not to mention a seeming indifference of the military to accountability when it comes to their spending of public funds.

The junta has talked about reforming just about everything and every agency but nothing about reforming the Armed Forces itself.

Lamyai, at least, was responsive and amenable to toning down her dance moves and wardrobe. But one has to ask: when will the attitude of the country’s military change and will they start accepting certain universal principles compatible with the 

mandate of the people. They need to understand that by doing so, their legitimacy will be enhanced.

Prayut’s reaction to such a lewd act is typical of Thai leaders. Sadly, they like to blame foreigners for such 


“Just because foreigners are doing it doesn’t mean we have to,” Prayut told reporters at Friday’s briefing.

Prayut, however, has nothing to say about the norms and social environment that Thai celebrities, elites and national leaders are setting for our youth. Indeed, Thai television soap operas continue to present rape as acceptable and even a virtue if the rapist married his victim. 

Thai leaders pride themselves on the fact that the country has never been colonised. But if they look at 

certain pockets of roads and sois throughout Bangkok and other major cities, they will see pole dancing and other sex shows that will make Lamyai’s twerk look like a school girl parade.

When confronted about these sex tourism hotspots, our leaders tend to get on the moral high ground.

Why not make sure that workers in this industry are treated fairly and humanely if you don’t have the 

political courage to criminalise 

prostitution and sex work?

Sadly, in his attempt to defend the boss, Government Spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd has suggested that Lamyai’s provocative dancing style was to blame for rape and 


Thai leaders and governments find it easy to blame the victim than find a solution.

Lamyai was not the first to get flak from Prayut. In late 2014, two British backpackers were murdered on the island of Koh Tao. One of the victims was raped before she was killed. He suggested that she was raped because she was wearing a bikini. He later apologised for making the