Thailand’s “Friday the 13th” has passed and, naturally, for a brief moment everyone started to relax. Then the camera panned back to his “dead” body and, boom, his eyes popped open before the screen turned black and the end credits rolled.
Check out the Saturday and Sunday headlines to see what I mean. The “day after” media coverage had “8-0” all over it, with “Government survives” being either a direct message or undertone. On the following day, the mood darkened, underlined by front pages that screamed “Vengeance”, either directly or in a relatively more subdued manner.
It fits the “Friday the 13th” label perfectly. The “villain” never dies – he just takes a break or pauses to evolve. “Jason” is the evil side of Thai politics, embodying simmering hatred, deep mistrust, a burning desire to win at all costs, and hypocrisy that has grown to the point where everyone else is a hypocrite but “us”.
This monster is not going anywhere. A landslide election victory can’t kill or contain him. Neither can a judicial clampdown. Not even what looks like a judicial compromise can put him to rest.
Thailand’s “Jason” is more special than the movie version because he exists on both sides of the national conflict but neither side realises that. The most fascinating part is that each believes “the other” is Jason. You know what they say about “the Devil’s greatest trick”. It works best when we are made to think we are driven by pure goodness.
The Constitution Court has issued a verdict that defends both the current charter and the government’s attempts to effect changes to it. To neutral eyes, at least, it was quite a clever ruling under the circumstances. The court spared the government’s blushes by declaring that the charter-amendment bill is constitutional and doesn’t pose any threat to Thailand’s political structure. Where defenders of the existing charter are concerned, the court said the highest law cannot be scrapped unless Thai people say so in a referendum.
Should we seek to dissolve the Constitution Court after this tantalising ruling? A better question would be “What kind of ruling can convince everyone on both sides that the court shouldn’t be dissolved?” If this court was overreaching its authority on Friday, as claimed by Nitirat leader Vorajet Pakirat, it wasn’t doing its job in 2001. Where was Vorajet when the court acquitted Thaksin Shinawatra of assets concealment anyway?
It’s undeniable that the eight judges were being a bit tricky last week. They got the ruling party off the hook for crimes that have not even occurred, but the judges also imposed some new conditions that could make the imaginary crimes a bit harder to commit. Fair? Again, a more proper question would be “If there is a fairer ruling acceptable to both sides, what is it?”
According to critics led by Vorajet, the court has it coming for interfering with things over which it has no mandate. Not only did the court exceed its legal boundaries by blocking constitutional reform without a legitimate plaintiff, the judges have planted heinous conditions to pre-empt future attempts to do away with a “military-installed” charter.
According to the pro-court camp, if the judges can’t prevent abuse of democratic powers, who can? The attorney general, whose career is at the mercy of whoever wins the election? Without the likes of the Constitution Court, the National Counter-Corruption Commission and the Supreme Court’s political-crimes section, who can check and balance the power of election winners?
On one side, Jason will kill to erase the existing Constitution. On the other, Jason will eradicate Thaksin and his hardcore supporters no matter what, and by any means. This Constitution and the man in exile can never co-exist, or so the Jasons on both sides have made us believe.
Whenever Jason has his way, on his trail are corpses of lost innocence. His victims, all of whom start off young and pure with only optimistic worldviews, end up killed, bloodied or bloodthirsty. The latter are the worst kind. In one of the most gripping “Friday the 13th” scenes, a tearful child survivor is embraced by the heroine, but all at once the boy’s expression changes as he stares darkly into the camera.
The brutal insanity of our politics has turned a lot of Thais into that young boy on the brink. The once naive, wide-eyed child has become accustomed to violence and consumed by paranoia and the raw impulse to do whatever it takes to fulfil a purpose. If you don’t notice it, don’t blame yourself, because it’s such a devilishly smooth transformation.