The month of September saw a war of words between ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and current Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan. Pertinent to this article is Prawit’s verdict on the political problem that has been plaguing Thailand for over a decade.
The general put the blame squarely on Thaksin’s shoulders, while insisting that the military is not a part of the problem. That in fact, the military stepped in to solve the problem.
Pair this verdict together with Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s insistence from last week that his government has accomplished more than any elected government in Thailand. Place the two generals’ sentiments next to President Donald Trump’s last week speech at the United Nations, telling the delegates that his administration has accomplished more in its first two years on the job than almost any administration in the American history.
What we have here is the diagnosis that delusion of grandeur is not an ailment exclusive to military dictators. It can affect everyone, including elected leaders. Moreover, from General Prawit’s words, we have pinpointed the reason why Thailand cannot heal from its violent political divide.
General Prawit is partially correct. Thaksin is to blame. For the corruptions under his government. For his patronage network shooting up steroids and running amok. For his abuse of human rights and freedom of speech. But Thaksin is only partially to blame.
The blame should also go to the yellow-shirt movement. They rightly and democratically assembled and protested against a government they saw as corrupted, both in 2006 against the Thai Rak Thai government and in 2008 against the People’s Power government. However, they wrongly and illegally engaged in battles with the authorities, laid siege to government buildings and occupied Suvarnabhumi Airport.
The blame should also go to the military coup de tat on September 12, 2006. For instead of allowing the democratic system and process to work itself out, the generals sort a quick fix with tanks and guns, thereby tearing apart an already-fragile democracy.
The blame should also go to the People’s Power government and the Democrats government. For their inability to manage Thailand’s political crisis. For their mishandling of the protests. For their parts in playing antagonistic patronage politics that further deepened the divide.
The blame should also go to the red-shirt movement. They rightly and democratically assembled and protested against a government they deemed illegitimate. However, they wrongly and illegally engaged in battles with the authorities, occupied public zones and burned down buildings and town halls.
The blame should also go to the Pheu Thai government. For its continuation of the Thaksin patronage network as a nominee party. For its attempt to sneak in an amnesty bill at four o’clock in the morning. For its failure in managing the political crisis and mishandling of the protests.
The blame should also go to the whistle-blowing movement. They rightly and democratically assembled and protested against a government they deemed corrupted. However, they wrongly and illegally engaged in battles with the authorities, occupied public zones and used physical force and intimidation to prevent a democratic election.
The blame should also go to the May 22, 2014 military coup de tat. For instead of allowing the democratic system and process to work itself out, the generals sort a quick fix with tanks and guns, thereby tearing apart an already-fragile democracy.
The blame should now also rest on the two generals in charge of the country, who are the same generals that launched the coup. The two generals who have been wielding dictatorial powers and denying our democratic and human rights for more than four years.
“Collective Responsibility” is a concept everyone should learn and embrace. As long as we continue to point finger and place blame only on other people. Then tribal mentality will continue to dominate our conscience. Therefore, antagonism will continue to be our words and actions. As such, conflict is perpetuated and rift is deepened.
All sides lend a hand in trampling on human rights and democratic values. This includes all 69 million of us, as well as this writer. Many either work or support one patronage faction or the other. Many has not spoken out or done enough to protect our country. Many has done nothing to help better the situation.
Putting the blame exclusively on one’s “enemy” will not resolve our violent political divide any more than the meaningless words and empty façade we hear and see from generals and politicians. This is because “the enemy” in this context is also Thais.