On Wednesday morning - the day after the Army Chief declared the martial law - Thailand was bombarded with criticism and warnings from overseas. The UN Secretary General, the US State Department, the European Union, etc, all decided to assume the role of
Meanwhile Western media swooped on Thailand like scavengers sensing a dying animal down below. They were full of opinions, yet devoid of the full facts and unbiased information.
The voice from overseas talked big ideals – that individuals’ freedom must not be violated, and that the democratic process must not be tampered with. These notions are the Holy Grail of modern Western civilisation, something that tomb raiders like Laura Croft get lured in by and thrilled about.
It is true that Thailand is not an isolated island; we are part and parcel of the world community of nations. As such, the community has a legitimate reason to express its apprehensions over events in Thailand. However, while so doing, it must not try to conveniently insert itself into Thailand’s troubled political equation. By choosing to remain oblivious to certain facts and the whole truth of why Thailand is where it is today, the world’s condescending criticism is at best unfair and at worst downright wrong.
If facts are inconvenient to the world community, then it should have refrained from straying into territory with which it is unfamiliar, for the result of such meddling is counterproductive. In fact, its energy would have been better spent in trying to locate more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian girls and bringing the kidnappers to justice. After all, Thailand is not Iraq or Afghanistan, where national sovereignty was completely trampled down by the West in the name of counter-terrorism.
Article after article in major Western media outlets has failed to mention the massive abuse of power on the part of the government, its corruption of epic proportions, and the blood and tears of poor farmers who broke their backs working the soil only to see the cash owed to them for their crops go into offshore and local bank accounts of politicians and their cronies. They have failed to mention that it was the government’s misplaced intransigence and hubris that brought out millions of honest taxpaying citizens into the streets, unable to tolerate the daylight robbery of national coffers that they had paid in to.
Western media have harshly criticised the Constitutional Court and the National Anti-Corruption Commission, depicting them as thorns in the side of Thai democracy. They overlooked the string of illegal actions by the government that led to the verdicts. The falsification of documents by the office of the then-prime minister is never mentioned because foreign press never bothered to study the verdict thoroughly. Truth be told, the verdict and impeachment of Ms Yingluck and her Cabinet was as good and as fair as the US Congress’s decision to impeach Nixon over the Watergate case. In fact, the illegal acts, the cover-up, the abuse of power and the kickback schemes perpetrated by Nixon and his people pale in comparison with what the Thai government and its head did here.
And Nixon deserves credit for resigning when confronted with the full disclosures of his legal and administrative failing. In Thailand, the government twisted and bent the laws to serve its whim. It was selective over which laws it would follow and which legal interpretations it used. It didn’t think twice before choosing the low road and demonstrating to the country that the laws only apply to little people like us, not them. And despite all this, it continued to insist on its “legitimacy”, even when it had none left.
The Western media has chosen to ignore the torrent of vile epithets delivered by community radios and local cable TV, paid for by the powers-that-be and poisoning the minds of villagers and city-slickers alike, encouraging them to hate without really questioning whether what they hear is true or not. These media outlets love mentioning that Thaksin Shinawatra-led parties have managed to win every election for the last decade, but show no interest in the dirty political machine that got them into power.
The foreign press loves to drag the so-called elite, the “Amart”, and the Palace into the picture because it sounds “sexy” and offers the intrigue of a conspiracy. But if pressed about what evidence they have of such interference, if they were honest they would admit they had none. Their “evidence” comes merely from the words of biased academics, who are keen to communicate with them in their language of conspiracy.
As for the “Democracy” word that the Western world so loves to preach, the bad news is we never had the genuine article, only the “appearance” – a phantom democracy. We had elections, but they are not synonymous with democracy. The check-and balance mechanism in our political regime has been destroyed, or marginalised, and rendered toothless. That’s why wholesale fraud and corruption have been allowed to prosper, and we the people have little or no say in it.
So when the world fails to fully grasp our terrible political situation brought on by bad government, when it ignores the killing of innocent and unarmed protesters that is met by absolute inaction on the part of that government, when it chooses not to see the large cache of war weapons at a resort owned by a former member of the government party and frequented by key red-shirt figures, and when it won’t act on information that bombs and grenades are being moved across the border and into Bangkok, it thereby loses any right to preach to Thailand about the imposition of martial law.
It seems certain that martial law is simply Round One of this national “Thai Fight”, and that things have only just begun. The military is now playing referee. Most people agree it has provided a necessary breather, no matter how short the space and what will happen next.
In our complex political scene, it is already extremely difficult to separate the facts from the fictions, the good from evil, the right from wrong. We are one big baffled family, and uninformed, prejudiced overbearing interference from outside can only make the confusion worse. The very real threat is that such meddling can be easily exploited to tip the level-playing field of our politics, thereby smashing any chance for us, no matter how slim, to find our own Holy Grail.