Don't use the country as a pawn in political games

national April 08, 2014 00:00

By Kornchanok Raksaseri

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Thailand's colour-coded political rallies can be compared to School Sports Day, when teams of different colours pit themselves against each other. And it appears that the stakeholders leading these games over the past nine years seem to be having a lot o

For instance, on Sunday night, Jatuporn Promphan, chairman of the pro-government United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), challenged the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to match the number of its red-shirt supporters. The red-shirt rally in support of caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra will be held on the day the Constitutional Court is expected to rule on her status. 
“We will be [rallying] on different roads and want the world to see whose numbers are bigger. The group that has the biggest gathering will win the country!” he declared. 
PDRC secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban accepted the challenge, saying: “This is for real. No rehearsal.”
The PDRC has been rallying for more than five months now – marching to and from different Bangkok landmarks, occupying roads in the commercial district and government offices. Many of these rallies were declared “final”, only to be followed by yet another. 
Meanwhile, after bloody clashes late last year, the red shirts have been sticking to the provinces in a move to minimise the impact on Yingluck’s administration – which shifted to the caretaker status after the House of Representatives was dissolved on December 9. 
After the caretaker government’s hopes to be voted in on February 2 somewhat fizzled out, the red shirts launched a mass rally on February 23 to gag independent agencies. On March 21, the Constitutional Court nullified the election.
The red-shirt rally on Saturday appeared to have been the largest so far and was held closer to the capital. Also, there seem to be some changes in the hierarchy. The red shirts are once again being led by Jatuporn, UDD secretary-general Nuttawut Saikuar and Veerakarn Musigapong, like they were in 2010. This is probably why people feared violence when Jatuporn declared that he expected 500,000 demonstrators to join the Saturday rally. Luckily nothing like that happened. 
Also, Jatuporn announced a few days before the Saturday rally that this was only a rehearsal and that the next gathering would be the “real” one. All this while independent agencies – namely the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the Constitutional Court – consider Yingluck’s status.
Meanwhile, in real life, especially on social media, “size (of the rally) does matter” because many people were interested in finding out about the turnout at the UDD and PDRC weekend rallies.
Also, every comment, be it from a rally leader or a guest speaker – including foreigners like Robert Amsterdam, the Canadian lawyer of fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra – gets a reaction. 
For instance, when I re-tweeted a colleague’s message on Saturday night urging Thais to stop fighting, I almost immediately got a rude message back from a complete stranger. 
Likewise, Army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha was slammed when he made a remark about how far an employee can go against his boss. Though the actual meaning of his remark still needs to be decoded, I don’t think his critics are being fair by calling him a slave of the Shinawatras. 
After all, Thailand is hardly a corporation and the real owners are the people, not the administrators.
When taking sides in this colour-coded game, people often forget the real role they play and instead just focus on attacking the other side. Many people in this so-called political “game” appear to be forgetting their real goal. Perhaps they should stop and gauge exactly what they are fighting for? Is it democracy, transparency, the country’s development or people’s happiness? 
Also, do these stakeholders know for sure whether they will be happy or if the country’s problems will be truly solved if they get what they are fighting for?
Manipulating the country’s future should never be fun and games. 
Before getting involved in these political games and becoming someone else’s tool, people should stop and see whether what they are doing is really worth the risk. 

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