Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thailand Politics

Don't worry E@L is not going to get his *own* hands dirty on this vexed question. He will leave the de-vexing and hands-dirtying to others much more qualified.

But as many, if not both, readers here will be aware, E@L goes to Thailand a lot - up to ten times a year for work and a few extra trips for holidays on Phuket or Koh Samui. Of course E@L loves Thailand, not only for the white sandy beaches, the crystal-water snorkeling, the sublime cuisine and the extensive and pervasive sex industry, but also for the caddies golf.

He follows the politics more emotionally than intellectually, and he understands more with a gut feeling than any well-informed reasoning. Yes, that's right, he reads The Nation when in Bangkok.

But sometimes, the politics follows you.

E@L was particularly distraught when all that political stuff, that coloured shirt stuff, was going on early last year. Bombs, fires, snipers, lots of "extra-judicial" killings, and the apparent targeting of journalists and health workers. Work and holidays had to be put on hold.

E@L was at the same hotel in Pattaya, for a conference, the weekend before the Yellow Red Shirts invaded it and stopped an ASEAN meeting, in April 2009.

He was working at the Chulalongkorn Hospital for a month late last year, once things had quietened. This is where it is alleged by Red Shirts that army personnel were firing rockets at civilians on the Silom Station, and by the army that the a) the rockets came from Lumphini Park across the way, and that b) the resulting storming of the hospital by the Red Shirts stimulated a hasty evacuation that cost the lives of three patients (one died of obesity!). (Source on this is the link at the end of this post.)

And he will be at Thammasat University next week. This is the site of the 1976 uprising and the massacre of - officially - 46 students, unofficially 100 or more, that led to a military coup. Students were lynched, brutally raped: Apparently it was a shocking, horrific incident and of course, being Thailand, no-one has yet been prosecuted for any of the "alleged" atrocities. It is not a topic I will bring up with the Doctors there next week.

But surely, in light of the power of modern information technology and media-sharing sites that we have seen in Tunisia and Egypt, it will be very surprising if the truth of what happened in last year's troubles is not properly brought to light...



Andrew McGregor Marshall, yes he's a Scot, lives just around the corner from E@L-GHQ. He is a good friend of Izzy, which is how E@L knows him. And something to do with cutlery. E@L has only been to his place once, for a BBQ (no cutlery augmentation required this time), and as he climbed the stairs to the party on the rooftop, he couldn't help but be awe-struck by his massive library on current affairs and modern history. Books everywhere! His collection makes E@L's paltry dabbling in contemporary classic ( or soon to be classic) novels and various atheistic tirades seem indeed shallow, infantile and, frankly, paltry.

But of course he has books: He is a serious journalist with awesome credentials. He was deputy bureau chief for Reuters in Thailand in 2000, where he made some well-connected enemies, such as then-Prime Minister Shinawatra. Just before the invasion of Iraq he was whisked off to Baghdad as the Reuters' bureau chief there. He is one of those guy who asks tough questions, or so it appears to E@L, who has not really spoken much with Andrew, but reads his blog posts* always with interest.

And thanks to his being an FBF**, E@L was reminded to read Andrew's most recent blog post tonight on the schemozzle that constitutes the official and unofficial version of recent events in Bangkok. E@L has spent the last hour or so completely immersed...

Andrew's article is the best E@L could hope to find to get him to understand the Thai troubles, and one of the best you'll find anywhere, he'd wager.

Reclaiming the Truth in Thailand

But what is the cost to Thailand of failing to confront the truth? If those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, then the perpetual political Groundhog Day that Thailand appears trapped in becomes easier to understand. To quote Streckfuss again:

The cycle in Thailand has become so familiar it seems normal: a coup is staged, the constitution is abolished, coup makers grant themselves an amnesty, a new constitution is drafted, new elections are held, the newly-elected government is perceived as increasingly corrupt, a crisis ensues; the next coup is staged, and so on. [David Streckfuss, Truth on Trial in Thailand: Defamation, Treason and Lèse Majesté]

Investigation and acknowledgment of the truth is essential if Thailand is to break out of the cycle and move forward. Hopes for genuine reconciliation can never be realised when there is no accounting of past confrontation and trauma. The conflict is never resolved, just ignored, until it flares again.

If Thailand wants to start taking the truth seriously, the events of April and May 2010 would be a good place to start.

(And for some context... Thaksin and Me)

What is truth? Some people are not prepared to wash their hands just yet.


* Me bad. Now on my blogroll!

** Facebook Friend

1 comment:

Skippy-san said...

"E@L goes to Thailand a lot - up to ten times a year for work and a few extra trips for holidays on Phuket or Koh Samui."

That alone makes me envy you. Politics would be the last thing on my mind.

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