Network Against the Coup in Thailand and the Rural Poor Dilemma
I've been told I can no longer write about the coup for various magazines in Thailand. As frustrating as this is, I understand the position editors are in.
I don't want to talk excessively about the coup and the Constitution, but there are still some elements of it that I want to explore. I've written a few pieces about the coup on my blog and have taken a keen interest in gaining a better understanding of what has been happening recently.
Not everyone is happy with the way events unfolded after the coup. The September 19 Network Against Coup D'etat are a group who have been expressing a very different viewpoint than we have been led to believe exists in Thailand. The Thai media has been reluctant to put forward this side of the story.
I for one am leaning towards showing my outright support for this group because they seem to represent something about the universal values of human rights and democracy.
Is it true that now we are in a state of martial law that all corruption in Thailand now ceases to exist? Certainly not, and furthermore, some are justifying the actions of the bloodless coup, as it were, by saying that it has avoided violence. Maybe so, but it has overturned democracy. Sometimes violence is a necessary side-product of democracy.
As ugly as it may be, the people need that right to be violent and to protest and stand up for what they believe in. Democracy cannot be expected to be peaceful and Eden-like at all times. Surely this much has been learnt from the past.
The fact remains that the coup leaders have the ability within their power to change the present climate any way they see fit. If the people were to rise up then this could force a situation whereby elections could be called for.
Do not think that by me speaking out against the coup that I am in favour of Thaksin. This is simply not true. Some people seem to be under the impression that the only options are "Thaksin or tanks." Since when did this become the case? Whilst I understand that Thaksin was a very corrupt, thuggish man, he served many of his 16 million voters effectively. He acted unethically, but let me ask you once more, is a Thaksin-free Thailand now also corruption-free? Not at all.
What also concerns me is that a lot of people are quick to say how this is how Thailand does it, how this is the way that Thai democracy works. This is the exact point of view that supporters of the September 19th Network Against Coup D'etat are fighting against. Thailand has moved on a lot in recent years and the backlash of this is a large group of people who have come to understand universal values of democracy.
The main problem comes with the rural poor. When I said two weeks back about Thailand emulating Western values, I meant amongst the more privileged classes, in the larger cities, where anti-coup movements like this are a reality. The situation is, of course, different for the rural poor who do not care for Western values and only care for how they can immediately benefit from the political situation. This is why they supported Thaksin, because the benefit was very immediate.
Whilst the bigger cities rely on Western practices, on the farms it is not quite like this. This highlights the very real problem of the divide between the elite and the poor.
Furthermore, the rural masses are not interested in freedom of speech. They are only interested, to the best of my understanding, in what they can get here and now, and this comes in the form of superficial benefits. Therefore, what should be key in Thailand should be educating the millions of people who have the power to vote in what that vote actually means.
It's a very complicated and volatile situation, and one that I often struggle to get my head around. Part of me wants the slightly romantic and unpredictable nature of democracy to be reintroduced, but then how can this democracy be ideally utilized if nobody actually understands what it means? Sometimes I think the Orwellian nightmare is the only solution.
I support the ideal behind what the September 19 Network are saying, but at the same time I am aware that this ideal is far from perfect because it is an ideal for the social elites. If there were no rural classes then fine, the power could be returned to the people more easily, but as it is it seems like the damage done by Thaksin's educating the masses will take years to fix. Even so, however, I still believe overthrowing the 1997 constitution was not the right thing to do because of the lack of freedom of expression in place now.
The future looks very bleak.