written by: vekin
I doubt I can walk the street of Thailand safely after this, since I doubt I can avoid angering people. But from what I saw in these past few days, I think it is worthwhile making somebody shake their fists at me if it means I get my point across.
I will be making a case for Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a man with many wrong-doings, and a man whom I am thankful he brings upon us this widespread yellow-red phenomenon.
I know that for many people he is already the ultimate villain, the evilness that lurks behind all the unrest, or even the devil himself. To me, he is a man rightfully accused but wrongfully blamed. If you are kind enough, please have patience with me as I make it clear to you why I, for one, did not think he deserves all this hatred or love the people in this country are directing to him.
Let me first tell you who I think the Red-Shirts are, what created them and the whole unrest, and what they have to do with Ex-Prime Minister Thaksin.
For this, we would have to rewind back to what it was almost forty years ago on October 14th , 1973, when the first political protest erupted on the road of Bangkok. It was led by college students against the dictating military government. It was the first “People Upraising” of its kind in Thailand, and probably the biggest and the greatest ever in this country. It ended with a riot where 77 people died, almost a thousand were injured, and the Prime Minister at that time fled into exile. The momentum it caused makes it a model for other uprising under the “pro-democracy vs. dictating government” theme.
What must be stated is that although this is a fight by the people and for the people, not all were actually involved. Most of the protesters were from within Bangkok and were well-educated. These people were aware of their power and influence, and living well enough to care for something else besides getting food on their tables. These people became the middle-class and the force behind advancement of Thailand.
What was not mention was that there were more people living in other parts of the country, who lived in fear of the government’s power and their primary concern was to get pass the day with some food in their belly. These people lived in the shadow of Thai’s history and never explicitly mentioned.
So I think I can safely say, the legacy of October 14th applies mostly for the middle-class whose power are realized by the government. The rest of the country is still under the “ruling” and hardly knows how to speak for themselves.
Fast forward to 1998 when Thaksin Shinawatra became the Prime Minister of Thailand – 25 years after the historical uprising for democracy – believe it or not, the government still remained in “rule” of most of the country but yielded more to the power of the middle-class after two more uprising on October 6th, 1976 and the protest in May, 1992. We even had a new constitution written by the people for the very first time.
Thaksin himself seemed to be the right choice for the moment. He is well-educated equipped with a Ph.D., an entrepreneur with successful business in telecommunication, a man who is active and initiative.
He was the first to dare touch the structure of the governmental system, commanding them, for the first time, to yield to the people.
My experience with any governmental institution was never pleasant, before his terms at least. They were slow, disrespectful, and indifferent. I have to hail Thaksin who dare make them turn around and “serve” the people, not “rule” them.
But the initiations Thaksin seems to care were those that were obvious and observable. Thus he started a whole lots of programs which seemed sound in principle but when you turn it upside down and inside out, some of them can hardly work. The change in the attitude of the governmental institution I mentioned was one of many things. The system still views itself as the ruler not the server, which is something Thaksin can hardly make it move. And to some degree he was too busy with other projects to focus his energy and brainpower on that matter.
The project I was in favor (to some extend) and is what I deem make him popular among the people is OTOP- “One Tambon, One Product”, which I think is successful to a certain degree. The essence of the project is to let people in rural area have access to a big enough sum of money to start producing and selling products. In other word, he was offering initiation of local entrepreneurship.
While the principle of the project is what I think the greatest of all his ideas, in practice he was simply throwing money to people without supporting programs to educate them in entrepreneurship or business management or even a follow-up on how the money was used. It was not a surprise at all if most of the money were wasted, and out of thousands of Tambons out there in Thailand only a handful managed to get start and prosper.
But if you were someone in the shadow for such a long time, this is a ray of light shed directly on you. For the first time they were told implicitly they have the power to start something and do something for themselves, not what the government wants them to do. He even gave away money without asking. And admit it, money makes the world goes round. Giving it away freely is one way of signifying generosity. Thaksin did a whole lot more than generosity. He treated them more or less as people he cared for.
Thus, it was no surprise that they rose up for him as the Red-Shirts when he was accused of corruption in oppose of the Yellow-Shirts who were heavily criticizing his administration.
That is why the present government would dread the call for election. The outcome is clear in itself; the people in rural areas and the lower-working class who are the majority would elect anyone in favor of Thaksin. The Yellow-Shirts would be out in the street protesting once again in a never-ending tug-of-war. Both Red and Yellow claimed they did it for the good of democracy and justice, following ever so faithfully the heroic model set by the protest of October 14th.
But this time, it is actually something else. We already have democracy working to a certain extend. There has been no dictatorship to overthrow for over a decade. And there is nothing heroic about any of the protests whatsoever.
A part of it, I believe, was about being heard. Thaksin in his last years of administration is clearly ignoring comments, but care only about overall popularity with the people. Thus giving birth to the Yellow-Shirts. The Red-Shirts, its counterpart, formed to support Thaksin who had shown them they have the voice and the power. Protest of this kind is a shout historically shown to be so loud we even hear of it until these day.
But who is listening to the recent shouts anyway.
As I read through comments and updates on facebook, my hairs stand on all ends. Some of the people, knowing it or not, seemed to be mourning the collapse of a part of Central World mall and all the brand-name showrooms inside more than the death of the Red-Shirts who walked the ground just outside. The picture of the fire set on the said mall was forwarded more than the news of the corpses found in the nearby temple supposed to be a safety zone, or the siege of public television station, or the anonymous troops lurking in Bangkok. Some Red-Shirts call Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva “The Prime Minister Who Kills The People”, but ignoring Thaksin Shinawatra’s “War on Drug” campaign and his attempt to calm the unrest in the three southern provinces of Thailand which had allowed people to be killed and arrested without proper investigation leading to the toll of death a hundred folds higher than the death in the clash.
One thing is clear. We all are just concerned with what has to do with our lives and nothing beyond that. The people we have been talking about, the people we are concerned of is just the group of people we are associated with. We, the people of Thailand, never actually think of other people as being “the people”!!!
We are shouting into nothingness what we want but would not listen to others, the very same thing our governmental system has been doing all these years.
The unrest will not cease, not because Thaksin is still around, but because we don’t have a place in our hearts for others’ welfare or our ears for others’ concern. As long as we are not listening to each other with all our attention, heart and soul, there is nothing that could stop more violence sure to come, because we will always be shouting to the extend of banging our presence in the doorsteps of others just as the Red-Shirts had done.
Thaksin is not the ultimate evil in this societal unrest. True that he was wrong for the corruption, but not that other governments were not corrupted. He, himself, did not care less when people die from his command or for his sake, but how different is that from us. What he merely did was triggering the runaway consequence of a society infected with ignorance and indifference already on the verge of collapsing.
Thaksin, in a sense, shows the ultimate evil in us all, and I am thankful he does or else I would never have been aware of this viewpoint within me and my fellow countrymen forming what I deem as a collective evilness. People are good, I believe, but the way we shape each other’s thought have collectively made us selfish and ignorance in such an unthinkable way.
Right now it is not about who give in first, but it’s about who open up first. Thaksin’s case should be dealt with properly, but that accusation must not be extended to “all of this”. We, regardless of who we are siding with and what we are siding for, are all to be blamed here together. he should not be our scapegoat in this matter. Get rid of our evilness and the ignorance that plaque us so we can live together as we should have been together for the longest time.
“For We All Aim to Live in Love and Harmony”
(~A verse from Thailand’s national anthem~)
Would really love comments on this matter. Feel free to say whatever is in your mind.