Lie to Me

There’s still a ban on political campaigning. But apparently, political canvassing is just fine. Road trips and grand speeches to potential voters are also okay. In fact, promises of populist policies are encouraged. Well, as long as they are done exclusively by the junta government, they are okay.

After spending the first half of 2018 doing photo-ops with stars and celebrities, not to mention meet-n-greet events with the people of Thailand, from up north to down south, pretty much all over the kingdom, Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has this week gone fully digital.

The junta leader has manifested himself on social media, hooking up on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but unfortunately – sorry, sexy strangers – he’s not on Tinder.

None of this is political campaigning, of course. Why is it not? Because the general said it’s not, and that’s pretty much the end of any conversation in a dictatorship.

Meanwhile, recently Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has also been going around the kingdom. In doing so, he has announced plans to return over a thousand land deeds to the good people of Kalasin Province. This is along with thousands of land deeds already returned to farmers in the north and northeast of Thailand, the stronghold of Thaksin Shinawatra.

This is not political campaigning, of course. Just like the supposed “boos” he received when visited the province of Buriram, the junta second-in-command said the were really cheers, not boos, and that’s all there is to that. Similar to his insistence that the luxury watches were all borrowed from friends. The National Anti-Corruption Commission is fine with the explanation, and so should we.

Furthermore, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak has last week announced a policy to lower the fuel price for motorbike taxis by three bahts per liter. This also is not political campaigning, of course. It’s merely an expression of love and care, the generosity of the junta.

Now if and when the general election comes in February 2019, only around four months away, millions of starry-eyed tweenies, thousands of north-and-northeastern farmers and 200,000 motorbike taxis nationwide, might say to themselves: “Crikey, that junta, they’re bit of alright, aren’t they? (Forgive the pretension at British slang, saw “Johnny English” over the weekend.)

Digression aside, this thought could very well translate into ticking the box for the political party that supports the return of the junta leaders to power. But again, it wouldn’t have anything to do with political campaigning. Why? Because the junta said so.

In fact, since this is Thailand, all things can be explained by good karma. Good things come to good people. Just make merits to the temple. Say prayers and offer foods to the holy ghosts. Hang flowers and garlands on man-made statues and relics. Release fish into the water and birds into the sky. You’ll be well taken care of by Lady Karma.

Digression aside, by the decree of the junta itself, political campaigning is prohibited.

Campaigning is so prohibited that no political parties are allowed to talk policies to the people. It is so prohibited that when the Future Forward Party revealed it has received some 20 million baht in political donations from the people of Thailand in just one week, the Election Commission had to give a stern warning, no more donation.

But see? The general election is only four months away, supposedly. Isn’t this time (passed time, in fact) to get out the key and unlock democracy?

Elections are a system of democracy. Political campaigning is a tool of elections. An informed public is able to make the best decision. Policies are the information the people need to know. The months ahead of an election is the period of time for political campaigning, not the absence of it

In fact, the months leading up to the election is when the people enjoy the most power. Here is where political parties compete to woo for the favors of the people.

Which party can pitch the most beneficial policies? Which party can inspire the better vision? Which party can lie the best? Which party can plant the sweetest kiss upon the people’s behind? (Note that after the election, “kiss” will be replaced by another four-letter word… upon the people’s same location.)

Digression aside, these are the questions the people need answers to. A free and fair election (take the “free” and “fair” with a grain of salt) isn’t possible, unless first there’s free and fair campaigning.

But blimey, we have only four months until the general election, so dear Uncle Tuu, get out the key and release the beast we called democracy.

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