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FRIDAY, September 30, 2022
nationthailand
What we can learn from 2018

What we can learn from 2018

TUESDAY, December 25, 2018
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On the political front, there’s a lot to absorb from a year when the same-old and not-necessarily-pleasant excitement got set to make its return. Environmentally, we have learned that some people  never learn that they should not mess with nature.

Diplomatically, it was about who had better access to the microphone.
As with any other year, 2018 is ending with a few lessons. And like every teacher, it can either be ignored, or dismissed, or listened to. Here are a few important things that 2018 told us – or so I think, at least.
1. It’s easier to travel backwards in time than forwards to the future. The year’s television phenomenon, “Love Destiny”, featured a heroine from the present who was sucked into the past where there was no electricity, no cars, and the threat of colonialism loomed. Thanks to her interest in history, she managed to cope. Now imagine if it had been the other way round, with the Ayutthaya-era catapulted forward to our world.
Could “Phi Muen” last a single day? Unlikely: there would be too much to take in. Imagine him opening the curtains at dawn to a forest of skyscrapers, roads full of cars, moving images on giant flat mirrors, and learning that the violent colonial superpowers of his time had become preachers of human rights. He would end up gibbering in a lunatic asylum in two hours.
2. The world can be united in a concerted act for the greater good. The Wild Boars rescue shows us just how good we can be, especially when divisive issues like politics, race and religion are swept out of the way. For a fleeting moment, the whole world was truly united, and no matter how brief that was, it gave us hope.
3. Democratic leaders can bad-mouth journalists. Donald Trump accused the likes of CNN of propagating fake news, which I find confusing. Both the US presidency and American journalism are supposed to be pillars of the country’s democracy, so who’s lying here, and is the US political model good or bad?
For a taste of the confusion, here are two statements made at the beginning of 2018:
“Donald Trump has governed in a way that poses a unique threat to American democracy.” – The Washington Post
“With all its phony and unnamed sources and highly slanted and even fraudulent reporting, fake news is distorting democracy in our country” – Donald Trump
In contrast, Aung San Suu Kyi said virtually nothing to discredit two Reuters journalists jailed in her country for reporting on the Rohingya crisis, yet the West kept stripping her of international awards.
4. The world got a new footballing hero, though he had probably barely kicked a ball. Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, Thailand’s duty-free mogul and owner of Leicester City, became a sporting legend after he died in a helicopter crash. Although we do not quite know how he ran his duty-free business to become one of the richest men in Thailand, people who made his acquaintance in England talked about his kindness, generosity and compassion in managing the club. The ocean of flowers laid at the King Power Stadium in Leicester said it all.
5. A business reputation is nothing if you don’t truly respect life. Another mega-rich Thai businessman, construction tycoon Premchai Karnasuta, is now in the dock as a suspected poacher responsible for the killing of a protected black panther. The killing of the big cat is threatening to spoil a lifetime’s work scaling the heights of wealth, business and society.
His fate still hangs in the balance, but the controversial hunting trip already offers a cautionary lesson: Thou shall not mess with nature.
6. To state the obvious, prospects for a healthier Thai political scene are not good. The groundwork has been completed for next year’s general election, but the power play now underway is unlikely to benefit the general public. Most ominous is the growing potential for ugly horse-trading.
We know what this tradition of Thai politics can lead to. Cynical political bargaining will see unqualified people offered important Cabinet positions, like the education or justice portfolios. To add to our worries, nepotism and populism, which have not gone away, will likely loom large next year, as Thai politics remains a zero-sum game and whoever wins power will certainly seek to consolidate their rule through underhand practices. 
Writer’s note: These lessons and musings come from my own personal perspective, of course. 2018 will naturally mean different things to different people – what it teaches will vary depending on your experiences. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone.