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It's time to learn now, before we destroy our society

Dear fellow Thai citizens, Are you fed up with and hopeless about politics yet?

I wouldn't be surprised if you feel despair and smell political hatred in the air.

On Monday the group of six independent organisations gave both caretaker PM Yingluck Shinawatra and anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban seven days to nominate 10 possible mediators to facilitate negotiations to end the prolonged political impasse. Sadly, it took less than a day for both sides to turn the proposal down.

This breakdown of trust is for all to see, and not just among leaders on both sides.

Some hospitals are now better known for their ubiquitous anti-government banners than health advice. At Wat Suthat, a well-known Bangkok temple, there's a banner urging people to leave politics behind before entering the temple compound.

Leaders on both sides definitely have 'good' incentives to do everything it takes to ensure victory, but what about us common folks? Do we really have to obey and believe in everything Yingluck or Suthep say and fully support them - no matter what?

Leaders on both sides have held the Kingdom hostage for months now, but more disappointing is the fact many ordinary folks have become fanatical, politically speaking, and equally responsible for holding Thailand hostage.

What Thailand lacks is a substantial number of active citizens who are sane enough to not buy into the propaganda from both sides in toto. Politics is not like rooting for your favourite football club and adoring it no matter what.

It's a waste of time to just blame Suthep or Yingluck and her older brother, the ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, or the red shirt leaders. Let us blame ourselves for having allowed Thailand to be dragged down by them and ourselves for so long.

What's happening is nothing short of a collective failure of Thai society in dealing with political differences in a mature and democratic manner and to create a better common future.

By this I mean accepting and talking out political differences as a natural part of the democratic process and not treating them like some virus that needs to be literally eliminated.

How many friends and family ties will we sever due to our political differences before we realise how immature this is?

In a dictatorial society people are expected or forced to think alike, while those who think differently are regarded as evil and persecuted. Now, is this what we want for Thailand?

In a way Thailand has progressed. We no longer pretend to agree and maintain a false facade of consensus behind Siamese smiles. But many of us have yet to learn how to disagree without hating. A mark of democracy is not just how people can freely air their views, but how differing views are tolerated or even embraced. In this regard Thailand has yet to succeed and we're paying the price.

We can learn after we destroy our society - or we can learn now and avoid sinking our country deeper into the abyss. We can learn now and pay less or pay more and learn later.

I always insist Thailand has never gone through a proper civil war. I should also like to insist that we don't need to go through a civil war before we can learn some important lessons about how to coexist peacefully and democratically.

Yours humbly,

Pravit Rojanaphruk


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