Prisoners without conscience
"Political prisoners": In Thailand, the term has been popping up with increasing frequency - and has become a virtual mantra for various pro-Thaksin and anti-establishment groups. Last week the head of a government-appointed panel pushed for the introduction in Parliament of an amnesty for "political prisoners".
But what makes a prisoner in Thailand "political"?
A number of people connected with political protests have been imprisoned or charged with violent crimes, including assailants who, in 2010, threw grenades into crowds or at government installations. Recently a red shirt was sent to prison for setting fire to a provincial hall. Are these and other violent offenders to be considered "political prisoners" worthy of amnesty?
Why extend amnesty to attempted assassins and arsonists? Why should violent offenders against a state that allows free elections, debates and protests of all stripes be equated with prisoners of conscience? Why should the man who murdered one innocent civilian and wounded 90 others on Silom Road on April 21, 2010, deserve not only freedom, but the saintly moniker of "political prisoner"? I would be particularly eager for the wise intellectuals from Nitirat to clarify this point.
As long as "grenade protesters" and arsonists are included in any proposed amnesty, the term "political prisoners" is a propagandistic sham, designed mainly to promote and expand the idea that Thailand is not a democracy until the UDD, Nitirat and other Thaksin-affiliated groups say it is. By expanding the term "political prisoners" to include violent offenders and pushing it into everyday political discourse, the UDD and others hope that violent actions committed in the name of politics become an acceptable thing - something to be forgiven and possibly allowed in the future without consequence.
It is attempted brainwashing through repetition. Say "political prisoners" with UDD enough times, and they will be so. Except they won't. And to actual political prisoners everywhere, including those in Thailand, using the term that defines them for pure political gain is another exercise in shameless hypocrisy.