Six People Who Should Give Up Politics

If I were a hopeless optimist, only seeing the beauty in this world and the good in everyone, then I could make the following statements:

  • Thaksin Shinawatra was the most talented political leader Thailand have ever had.
  • Abhisit Vejjajiva was the most educated political leader Thailand have ever had.
  • General Prayuth Chan-ocha saved Thailand in time of crisis.
  • Suthep Thuagsuban led the people to fight against corruption.
  • Jatuporn Prompan led the people to fight for democracy.
  • Natawut Saikua led the people to fight for democracy.

I may say the intentions of all six gentlemen are pure and honorable. They truly want to do well for Thailand. But the reality that we see every day is that every time each of these gentlemen utter a word that becomes news, the good people of Thailand have an epileptic fit.

Thailand may find some sort of unity in criticizing a celebrity love triangle, but as soon as any of the six gentlemen become news, society is fragmented into two sides. We lob hell, fire and brimstone at one another. Furthermore, if ever someone aim to agitate, society may very well once again degenerate into mob violence, as we have seen time and time again in over a decade of Thailand’s political divide.

Therefore, these six gentlemen should retire from politics and from public life. There might be more than these six, but these six make for a good start.

Democracy stands on the principle of freedom. As such, differences and diversities are the norm. Discussions, debates and even arguments are encouraged. But differences and divisions aren’t the same. The former is a matter of discussion and exchanging ideas, even if at times we can be quite stubborn and emotional about things. The latter is a matter that leads to fragmentation and chaos. A nation divided against itself.

If one were to pore through books on the history of Rome, one might find tens, if not hundreds, of reasons as to why the western half of the empire fell. Every single reason certainly played a contributing factor. All the reasons combined together yielded the sum of an orgiastic mess of failures.

In his book, Fall of the Roman Empire, Michael Grant gave a summation of 13 interacting tensions that led to the fall of the western half of the empire:

The generals against the state. The people against the army. The poor against the state. The rich against the state. The middle class against the state. The people against the bureaucrats. The people against the emperor. Ally against ally. Race against race. Drop-outs against society. The state against free belief. Complacency against self-help. The other world against this world.

Thirteen different interacting tensions, but one common theme “against”. Specifically, a nation (or empire) divided against itself.

Thailand is not Rome, not by any stretch of imagination. But Rome and Thailand, as well as every country ever created since the dawn of the human civilizations, are the same in its basic structure: these are human organizations.

As with any human organization, a decline and eventual fall starts with the organization being divided against itself.  In today’s world, we are witnessing this theme, from the most developed western countries to a struggling nation like Thailand.

What would be the point of history if we don’t learn from it?

Thailand today is the people against the people. The people against the bureaucrats. The state against the people. The military against the politicians. The people against the military. The poor against the elites. The elites against the poor. Tradition against change. Control against freedom. Most specific to this essay, cult of personality against cult of personality.

The list may go on and on. But one theme remains the same, the word “against” in the context of one nation.

There are many reasons to explain Thailand’s division. Everyone has his or her pet theory. But like as not, one important reason is the love and hate the Thai people have for these six gentlemen, and the cults of personality they have created. The love and hate that brought about chaos and violence. The love and hate that see a nation divided to this very day.   

If national reconciliation is the goal, then perhaps we ought to thank the six gentlemen for all the goods they have intended. But more urgently, we must ask these six gentlemen to make an important personal sacrifice for the future of our country. This sacrifice is to retire from politics and public life, to earnestly retired, and not even to play the wizard behind the curtain.

Obviously, as things stand, they are not going to give up on politics. Wealth, power and pride, these are rather irresistible things. But if we the people realize the need for the six gentlemen to turn in their badges and hang up their gloves, we may eventually pressure them to do so… one voice at a time, until we reach of sum of millions and tens of millions. 

Then we can move on to better things in life.

Put Me in Charge of Education Reform

Recently, I took up a teaching post at Webster University. Over beers and hot wings one evening, five teaching staff, three western and two Thais, engaged in a discussion over white privilege, social justice warriors, safe space and other delicious topics. Since everyone lives and works in Thailand however, the conversation invariably drew comparison to the kingdom.

Specifically, we were discussing the Age of Enlightenment, which started around the early 18th Century in Western Europe. This was a time of burgeoning democratic conscience, struggles for civil rights and liberty, advancements in science and technology, the industrial revolution, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Underlining all of this is of course the ideal of freedom. Free the mind. Free the soul. Be enlightened. Then all things become possible, including scientific advancement and economic prosperity.

It was proposed that the Age of Enlightenment formed the backbone of western society today, even though many might argue that the backbone is rotting away at the present.

The obvious question then became, when was Thailand’s Age of Enlightenment? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? No?

But it’s not just Thailand, is it? Most of the world did not go through the Age of Enlightenment. Why? Superiority of western culture? White privilege? God chosen? Historical accident? Too busy getting colonised? There are lots of fun and racially rambunctious theories to be had. But we’ll save that for another day. Opening too many cans of worms at one time only lead to too many worms.

From the establishment of the Sukhotai Kingdom in 1238 to the fall of the Ayutthaya Kingdom in 1767. From the short-lived Thonburi Kingdom (1767-1782) to the rise of the Rattanakosin Kingdom, the Thai people were 694 years under absolutism, then we woke up one morning in 1932, heavy heads and sleepy eyes, muttering: “What? We’re a democracy now? What’s a democracy?”

Then, from the 1932 Revolution that ended absolute monarchy to today as you are reading this, we have been playing a ping-pong match between democracy and dictatorship. The match saw 19 military coup d’etat attempts, whether fail and success, not counting the 1932 revolution. That’s averaging one coup attempt every four to five years. Half of the period we were also a pawn in the Cold War between the US and the USSR.

So, where was Thailand’s Age of Enlightenment? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone? No?

We are the sum of our pasts. Who we are today is the accumulation of our historical evolution.

If the ideals of freedom, liberty and equality are generally embraced in western culture (even if these ideals have come under attacks at present time) it is because the democratic conscience has been fostered in western culture for centuries, since even before the Age of Enlightenment.

If the ideals of freedom, liberty and equality generally hold second position in Thailand, lagging behind the top priority of tradition and Thai-ness, then this is simply the sum of our historical evolution.

Hence, through the past 86 years, Thailand may have had democracy as a set of rules written in ink on a piece of paper. But papers can be torn up, as happened so many times with the Thai constitution. For democracy to work, it can’t just be ink on paper. It has to be in the national conscience. There has to be a democratic conscience.

However, we can’t change history. What can we do?

One western professor pointed out, “Well, Voranai, you seem to understand all of this, and you’re Thai.”

Therein lies the answer. We can’t change history. But we can learn from history. If I “understand all of this” (which I would never be presumptuous enough to claim “all” about anything) then I understand it through education.

Education.

I should be put in charge of Thailand’s education reform.

RAE: Rap Against Everybody

Well, it’s been a fun few days.

Spiting passionately and poetically about the woes of Thailand in general and the flaws of military dictatorship in particular, the song “My Country (Prathet Goo Mee)” from a new, young hip-hop outfit, RAD (Rap Against Dictatorship), went viral.

And then, people went nuts.

To get the obvious out of the way, one doesn’t have to agree with the content of the song. One may even hate the content of the song. But if freedom of speech is in our cultural value, our national conscience and our constitution, then there should be no problem. One may argue over the content, but one wouldn’t scream for a ban of the song. There would be no legal repercussion.

But Thailand insists on proving the young rappers correct about our woes and our flaws. As such, there have been no shortage of: “Traitors!” “Get out of my country!” And a personal favorite: “How dare you air our dirty laundry to foreigners”, as the song came with English subtitles.

Also, there was almost a legal repercussion, courtesy of the kingdom’s favorite super-cop and best-friend of the rich and powerful, Deputy National Police Commissioner Police General Srivara Ransibrahmanakul. He huffed and he puffed. He threatened with the handcuffs. But overwhelming public supports for the song caused him to back off.

Of course, times are sensitive. Elections may be coming in February of next year. General Prime Minister Uncle Tu and General Deputy Prime Minister Uncle Pom are on good behaviors, or at least they try to be. Therefore, they mostly stay away from the issue. It wouldn’t look good to potential voters to throw tantrums and flex dictatorship muscles over something this popular, so close to potential elections.

Not everyone may know this, but there’s another rap song that recently went viral, even though not to the same mega proportion of the aforementioned song. This one is also called “My Country”, but the content and the music VDO flip the script of anti-dictatorship.

In this version, the anonymous rappers wax poetic about “parliamentary dictatorship” in general and the crimes and corruptions of the Shinawatra siblings and the red-shirt movement in particular. Predictably, those who hate RAD, cheer for and applaud the song. While those who love RAD, jeer and boo this copied version.

Earlier I said, “to get the obvious out of the way”, because defending freedom of speech is the obvious stance for me to take. But here, let’s discuss something that should be obvious, but it simply isn’t in the eye of most people.

That is, no matter which side you are on, no one has been able to disprove the validity of the contents of both songs. The contents may contain embellishments here and there, as is expected, these are songs, not scholarly articles. But in general, no one can disprove the points both songs made. As well, both songs are pretty much a crash course on recent Thai history.

If we were to recognize and embrace this point, then we would realize that despots are despots, no matter if they wear a uniform or a suit. But because we either are blinded to, or turn a blind eye to, this point, Thailand will remain Thailand: a country divided, where the people are used as pawns by rivaled groups of rich and powerful elites in their “game of throne”.  

This is not to say that both sides are equally bad. There isn’t a measuring tape long enough to judge. But bad is bad no matter the color, and we deserve better than simply, “the lesser of two evils.”

The rap song “My Country” is important and timely. It demonstrates courage and generates discussions. But as soon as it went viral, the spin-doctors went to work and took control of the narrative. And now, the same old song is blasting over “My Country”. The same old song that has a people divided against itself, with one side yelling “you evil establishment slaves”, while the other side screaming, “you evil Thaksin slaves.” And so, we are stuck in same cycle.

Despots are despots, no matter the color. Slaves are also slaves, no matter the color. Herein lies the real problem. Instead, the song we should sing is “We are Thais, and we are slaves to no one.”

In the upcoming elections, is there a prime minister candidate or a political party that’s willing to unchain the shackles that imprison us? If there is, the people should give them the key by casting our votes. If there isn’t, vote anyway. At least, get democracy back first, tainted democracy though it may be. One step at a time.

If the power of the people can cause the power-that-be to back off from “My Country”, then the power of the people can make changes to “Our Country”.

But this can never happen, as long as we are a nation divided against itself.

How They Brainwash the People

Brainwashing goes by many names. In business, we called it marketing and advertisement. In politics, we called it political communication. Or campaigning. Or propaganda. Or anytime a politician opens his or her mouth. In the media, we called it… well, the media.

Marketing and advertisement aim to create the “consumer zombies”. To brainwash us into a life of slaving away for our capitalist masters. To toy with our vanity by telling us that we do not matter, unless we buy and consume. To exploit our insecurity by persuading us to measure the value of humanity by the car that we drive, the cosmetic that we wear and the brand that we buy. To enslave us with our own lack of self-worth.

Political communication aims to create the “citizen zombies”. To brainwash us into obeying our political masters unquestioningly. Whether on who to vote for. Who to march for. Who to riot for. Who to love or hate. Which country to invade. Or, which minority group to persecute.

The media is simply a platform for our capitalist and political masters.

(Yes, we are full of skepticism today.)

The strategy of brainwashing is to manage the perception of the people and shape the reality of the world in which we live. Meaning, to bombard the people with information that would get them to think in a certain way, in other word, form a perception. Then, persuade the people to act on it, in other word, create a reality in response to said perception.

For example, if the political machine is successful in forming the perception that “America kinda suck now” and will “continue to suck even worse”, while painting a picture of Donald Trump as the hope that can “make America great again”. If enough people buy into this  perception, then guess what, said people would go to the booths and cast their votes.

Hence, creating the reality of Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States of America.

Key to the success of brainwashing the populace is “emotional investment”. Love is blind, deaf and dumb. Tug on our heart’s string, get us to invest our emotions into a person, a group, a religion or an ideal so completely, and the passion of the people can move mountains and create wonders. But as there are two sides to every coin, yank on our heart’s string, and the passion of the mob can rain hell and fire.

To wash away logic, reason and rationality with that most powerful detergent, emotion. Of which, the ingredients include love and hate, hope and fear. Mind you, the people aren’t stupid. But if we let our emotion overcomes our reason, then even the most brilliant people become blabbering idiots. Haven’t you been in love?

Picture this:

It is 2010, at the height of the red-shirt demonstration in Bangkok. In the middle of Ratchaprasong District, the leaders stood on the stage, while thousands of red shirts watched on. A leader bellowed into the microphone, “We must fight for democracy!” The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Even a skeptical observer went, “Yeah dude, that’s cool. Fight for democracy.”

The leader then said, “We must demand democratic elections!” The crowd again went nuts, and even the skeptical observer couldn’t help but think, “Yeah dude, that’s cool too.”

The leader went on to chant about justice, human rights and equality. The frenzy crowd was in the palm of his hands, and even the skeptical observer went, “Preach on, dude, preach on.”

Then the leader said something about if they don’t get their way, everyone should grab a bottle, fill it with gasoline and light the city up. Now of course, by this time the people had their emotions so invested, there was no turning back. Again, they cheered enthusiastically.

The skeptical observer, meanwhile, went, “hold on, dude, that ain’t cool.”

Picture this too:

It is 2014, at the height of the whistling demonstration in Bangkok. In the middle of Ratchaprasong District, the leaders stood on the stage while thousands of whistlers watched on. A leader bellowed into the microphone, “We must fight against corruptions!” The crowd went wild with cheers and applause. Even a skeptical observer went, ‘Yeah dude, that’s cool, fight corruptions.”

The leader then said, “We must fight against the lies, greed and treachery!” The crowd again went nuts, and even the skeptical observer couldn’t help but think, “Yeah dude, that’s cool too.”

Then the leader said something about using physical force and intimidation to prevent democratic elections, and also something about “external force” should move in and save the country. Now of course, by this time the people had their emotions so invested, there was no turning back. Again, they cheered enthusiastically.

The skeptical observer, meanwhile, went, “hold on, dude, that ain’t cool.”

Leading up to both scenarios, one side has spent years constructing the perception that the enemy wants to establish a corrupt capitalist republic. While the other side has also spent years constructing the perception that the enemy wants to create a corrupt feudal absolutism.

(Note that, if you are now arguing about which side is worse, then you may just be a brainwashed zombie. Get vaccinated immediately.)

The game is to get the people emotionally invested to the point they are blinded by love, clouded by hate, motivated by hope and united in fear.

Consequently, the reality that has been shaped is General Uncle Tu and General Uncle Pom, dictators extraordinaire.

When emotion overcomes reason, we become mindless zombies. The art of brainwashing is as old as time, and like most things in life, the passion of the people can be channeled into creating something good, or into wreaking destruction. Either way, the people will always be pawns in this game, if we allow our emotions to be manipulated.

History isn’t just about what happened and when it happened. History is also about the how and the why. Thailand needs to learn – not who to hate or what to despise – but how we got here and why we are here.

But one thing is for certain, those master manipulators on the stage were never the ones out there, risking lives and limbs. Rich folks talk. Poor folks die. It’s another tale, as old as time.

How to Fight Thaksin  

On October 17, the new commander-in-chief of the army, General Apirat Kongsompong, gave an interview and pointed out that there wouldn’t have been a coup de tat, if not for politics causing the chaos. Meaning, it was the doings of politicians that caused riots in the streets, so the coup was necessary.  In other words, don’t blame us, it’s your own fault.

In an alternate reality, the words of the new commander-in-chief would be something along this line: “There would be no need for a coup de tat, if Thaksin had lost the election.”

Let’s analyze this, but also allow me to preface it by stating that this is not a good versus evil narrative. Real life isn’t a Hollywood movie. Rather, the conflict is simply a power struggle between two rivaled groups.

The 2014 coup de tat was launched for one reason and one reason only, the conservative elites could not beat the populace demagogue at the voting booth. Therefore, extreme situation required extreme measure. The extreme situation was the losing of power. The extreme measure was using the military to gain back power.

After decades of power struggles since the 1932 revolution, Thailand settled on the rule of the triumvirate: the traditional establishment, the military elites and the elected politicians. Think of the Roman second triumvirate between Octavian, Mark Anthony and Lepidus.

Many of you, dear readers, may wonder, who the hell is Lepidus? Well, exactly. In this power-share, Thai politicians were Lepidus, weak and irrelevant, nothing more than a puppet. But if you don’t know any of the three aforementioned Romans, let me give a modern analogy: the Kardashians. The establishment and the military were Kim and Khloe, the politicians were Courtney.

There, crystal clear.

For the sake of the discussion, we shall from now on bunch the traditional establishment and the military elites together and called them, the conservative elites.

The triumvirate was the arrangement of the Thai-style democracy during the 1990s. But who were the politicians? They were pretty much (not all, but pretty much) urban gangsters and provincial mafias. Ambitious adventurers with the power and money to get elected and the aim to carve their own slice from the Big Durian that is Thailand.

They were kept on a leash, of course. But otherwise they could do as they please. Abused the power, corrupted the country, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Just so long as they didn’t upset the power status quo, everything was fine (“mai pen rai”).

Then along came the conservative elites’ worst nightmare, a populace demagogue. This is true now, as it was in the times of the Roman Republic. Names like Marius, Sulla and Caesar, they were the populace demagogues, the enemies of the conservative elites.

Up to this point, Thai politics was very much “gangster politics” kept on a leash by the conservative elites. Then came Thaksin Shinawatra, representing a new and fast-growing power, the capitalist elites. He turned the Thai-style democracy into “money politics”.

As any merchant would, he bought out the gangster politicians, consolidated their power bases as his own, cloaked his political machine under snazzy branding and marketing strategies, launched the product into the market like it was the latest iPhone, made promises to shower the people with gifts if elected, and actually did shower the people with gifts once he was elected (especially his own people), and then settled in to build a cult of personality.

Why a cult of personality? Because, you see, an opportunist may make his money and move on. But, like MMA superstar Connor McGregor, Thaksin didn’t just come to take part. He came to take over.  The 2001 election victory was a landslide. The 2005 victory was an even bigger landslide. The first person in the Thai election history to, not only serve the full four years’ term, but won a second term.

Meanwhile, the cult of personality kept growing and growing, as did the Thaksin patronage network. Friends, relatives and allies were appointed to important and lucrative positions. He also made a move to take control of the military itself. Naturally, the populace demagogue’s expansion was at the expense of the power and influence of the conservative elites, and that just won’t do. The conservative elites had to put an end to all the shenanigans.

The power struggle saw three political demonstrations against the populace demagogue (2005, 2008 and 2014), two of the demagogue’s political parties banned (Thai Rak Thai and People’s Power) and one coup de tat (2006).

But despite all the efforts, the dude just kept winning elections. After a decade-long conflict, the conservative elites finally realized, it’s them damn elections that are the problem.

In a democracy, the solution to political chaos is to hold a fresh election. Let the people decide which group of elites they want to rule the country. Well, if the people kept deciding for the populace demagogue, then there needs to be a change of tactic.

In the political turmoil of early 2014, Thaksin’s puppet Pheu Thai government sought a way out by announcing for a new election, knowing that they would again win. The conservative elites, smarting from past lessons, went like Whitney Houston, “Hell-to-the-no.”

Hence, the strategy for the whistle-blowing demonstration was to prevent the election from happening – and that they did, through forces and intimidation. Chaos ensued. The coup de tat of May 2014 followed.

But why not appoint an interim government and then a return to election within a year’s time, like with the 2006 coup? It has been over four years of military dictatorship, with an election may be in February 2019. What’s up with all this?

The conservative elites have to win this election, that’s what’s up.

Hence, the building of the cult of personality of General Prayuth Chan-ocha – hoping that he would be Khabib Nurmagomedov to Thaksin’s Conner McGregor. Hence, the populist policies. Hence, the junta-inspired 2017 Constitution. Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera. All of which is to give every possible advantage to the conservative elites in the coming election.

If the conservative elites win the next election, Thailand returns to the triumvirate rule of Kim, Khloe and Courtney.

If the populace demagogue wins, then it’s Kylie Jenner taking charge. Silicone-injected lips and butt, a celeb-on-steroid making more money than Kim and Khloe combined, even more than Beyonce. Selling colorful cosmetics to the populace of millions and millions of tweenies who worship the ground she walks on.

Again, this is not a fight between good versus evil, but a struggle between two groups of rich and powerful elites for the control of the Kingdom of Thailand, and all the wealth and power that come with. Furthermore, as in any battle since the dawn of time, one fights by any means necessary.

There you have it. Get out the pom-pom and choose a side, if you must. But at least, first and foremost, understand what this is all about. 

Amazing Death Island

A 19-year-old British woman made claims in UK media that she was raped and robbed on the island Koh Tao in June of this year. More often than not, rape allegations come down to “he said, she said”. According to police investigators, the alleged victim could not give details of the alleged crime scene nor attacker. As well, forensic tests revealed no semen on her clothing.

But this doesn’t mean she wasn’t raped. According to reports, she was drugged, and only woke up to briefly see a man who quickly fled. So of course, she wouldn’t have details of the alleged crime or attacker, given the state she was in. Unfortunately, what actually happened will likely remain a mystery.

Over the past decade, the popular tourist destination has suffered a string of high-profile violent crimes against tourists, from robbery to rape and murder. This case is simply the latest one, but like all the cases that went before, it has cast Thailand in a bad light… and that’s the problem with how all these crimes have been handled. Seemingly, the public image of Thailand is more important than justice for the victims and their families.

We expect better from those whose duty and responsibility it is to protect us. Whether the “us” is Thai citizens or foreign tourists. It isn’t necessary the robbers, rapists and murderers that cast Thailand in a bad light. These are vile criminals that deserve the harshest punishment, no doubt. But robbers, rapists and murderers exist in every society and in every period of human history.

Rather, it is how the authorities have handled the cases that has deepened Thailand’s negative image.

According to Australia’s news.comau, Koh Tao’s Sairee Beach has seen “10 mysterious deaths in six years”. Some of the victims include British tourists Dave Miller and Hanna Witheridge, found bludgeoned to death in 2014. Frenchman Dimitri Povse, found hanged with hands tied behind his back in 2015. British Luke Miller, found dead at the bottom of a pool in 2015. Belgian Elise Dallemagne, found dead and half eaten by lizards in 2017.

International media has dubbed Koh Tao, “Rape Island” and “Death Island”. Other than these cases occurring on the same island, there is one glaring commonality, the victims’ families accusing the authorities of either not doing enough or plainly covering things up.

Case in point, regarding the latest incidence. The authorities arrested 12 people for sharing a Facebook post about the claims by the young British woman, citing Thailand’s Computer Crime Act that prohibited sharing “false information that threatened Thailand’s security”. According to reports, they have since been released.

Here’s a prime example of knee-jerk reaction that cast nothing but doubt on the authorities’ competence and integrity. Every country has robbers, rapists and murderers. But what kind of a country make arrests on people who share stories about an alleged crime? The lack of trust in the authorities and the lose of faith in the rule of law is what casting a bad light on Thailand’s image.

Obviously, there are serious problems on Koh Tao, rampant with crimes and allegedly run by organized crimes. However, real life isn’t Tom Cruise’s Minority Report, we can’t prevent a crime before it happens. But what we do after is testament to our character and integrity.

The authorities need to earn the trust and confidence of citizens and tourists alike. The only way to do this is to fight crimes… and win. To bring justice to the victims and their families, whether they are local Thais or foreign tourists. Only a full-scale and transparent investigation into the illegal activities and crime organizations on Koh Tao, with arrests and punishments in accordance with the due process of law, would suffice.

Lives are more important than image. People’s safety and security must be the focus of the authorities, not Facebook stories. If the authorities succeed in protecting lives and providing safety and security, the image will pretty much take care of itself.

This is what we ask of those people whose duty it is to protect us.

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.