Thursday, March 8, 2007

Deconstructing Suthichai Yoon: More Hypocrisy about Democracy from The Nation's Finest


Suthichai Yoon

How can the new constitution protect the 'little people'?

If you have been reading the papers, you might get the impression that this constitution they are drawing up is mainly meant to satisfy the politicians who seem to have monopolised the discussion on how the country's highest set of rules should read.

That, of course, is a dangerous misconception. If, in the end, this charter doesn't effectively serve the "little" people - those who politicians are fond of calling "grassroots" in order to justify their massive spending sprees, then it would be nothing more than an academic exercise for scholars, not a noble document aimed at creating a genuine democracy.

Some serious questions must be brought to the attention of charter writers who are currently engaged in an intense debate.

In this age of unmediated democracy, what will happen to the carefully contrived constitutional system of checks and balances?

Who will protect minorities against the passions and tyranny and excesses of the popular majority? Who's going to speak on behalf of ethnic hilltribe people to guarantee their right to manage their own natural resources? It's obvious that the biases of the authorities as well as discriminatory government policies remain a serious obstacle for ethnic groups, but unless such a guarantee is clearly incorporated into the new constitution, the "highland-lowland" gap will continue to plague Thai society.

Who will protect the majority from being manipulated by public opinion experts, political spin-doctors and unscrupulous pollsters?

Who will protect the poor from the permanent majority of the rich and powerful?

Who can offset the persuasive power of big money, the frequent lies and misleading political statements, the corruption of politics through the so-called "legal bribery" by lobbyists and vested interest groups seeking favours from government and the pervasive influence of those who control the state media and private telecommunications empires?

How can those who own the means of communication and dominate the media through lopsided expenditures be prevented from overwhelming the debate, slanting the discussion and unfairly influencing the public at large?

In the current commercial television climate, good quality documentaries about important public issues have all but disappeared from the screen. The quality of information is getting worse, not better. And this has nothing to do with the uproar over the Cabinet's decision on Tuesday to put an end to the operations of iTV, previously owned by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and later sold to Singapore's Temasek Holdings for its failure to pay a Bt100-billion fine for violating the station's founding principles.

There is also the important question about how the new constitution can provide the necessary mechanisms to handle the rise of public discontent, caused partly by how Thaksin's overwhelming House majority was exploited to benefit political elites and their inner circle.

No doubt a large number of educated and informed citizens have grown increasingly disenchanted with politics, politicians and political parties. No doubt, the mass media have also fed their cynicism.

The number of voters is growing who believe that their political leaders are out of touch with the people's real problems and who as citizens feel a sense of powerlessness - not to mention the worsening feeling that those who run the country don't really care what happens to them. The deepening sense of alienation and frustration that Thai people feel toward the government has grown despite Thaksin's populist platform - an attempt to go all out to curry favour with the so-called "grassroots" voters. Now, they know it was nothing but part of an expensive game funded by their own tax money.

The constitution writers will have to arm ordinary citizens with the power and "weapons" that will enable them to reach responsible and informed judgements. Access to information is the key to successful self-governance.

The public's ability to receive, absorb and analyse information can no longer be left to happenstance.

Ironically, new interactive telecommunications technologies are here but they aren't being put to work on behalf of democracy. The tools may be sophisticated but since they are being used without the information, political organisation, education, or preparation needed for them to be used wisely, such new gadgets and systems may be used by the powers-that-be to undermine - not enhance - the democratic process.

Ask the real "common people" who have been through five years of "Thaksinomics". They would tell you that politics is simply too dangerous to be left to politicians, especially those specialising in money politics and cronyism.

It never ceases to amaze me how those hypocrites at The Nation can write crap like this and get away with it.

A constitution can't make people behave in certain ways. It can't protect a minority. It can't do anything about huge media conglomerates that broadcast crap day after day. It can't make the plebes believe what the columnists at The Nation believe--and thank the Buddha, it doesn't. A constitution can't "guarantee" anything. It is just a piece of paper that enumerates the laws and rights of the people. And if the people treat the constitution like disposable toilet paper, then they will get shit.

The Nation has done absolutely nothing to sustain Thai democracy. In fact, The Nation is a force against Thai democracy, because it has no respect for the law. It supported an illegal coup, because it knew Thaksin would win the next election. End of story. The Nation had a choice between it own interests and the rule of law, and it chose its own selfish interests over the constitution. The Nation's blatant hypocrisy is exposed by its own words every week, yet it still insists that it is as pure as a lamb and a mouthpiece for democratic principles.

Ironically, this type of inconsistency is the thing that is killing constitutional rule in Thailand.

I can sum up the problems in Thailand with one word: Integrity. As long as people are inconsistent with their word and their social agreements, things will fall apart.

Just like many things in Thai society, Thais think if they dress up a document and make it look sweet and pretty, people will be seduced by its mystical powers. The fact is real life is not that way. The glue to life, the glue to a good government, and the glue to a functional economy is integrity.

Without integrity, the rest is just bullshit.


Anonymous said...

In any event, nobody in a position to do anything about the little people is interested in doing so. Th Thai society only competes financially because it ruthlessly exploits the non-Bangkok population. Given the prevailing level of management expertise and efficiency in the public and private sectors alike, if Thailand had to pay a similar proportion of its costs in payroll as western companies do, it would be bankrupt very quickly. The only things Thai businessmen are good at are opportunism and spotting the opportunity to exploit people, the law and foreigners. Oh yes, and cheating, they are pretty good at that.

Bangkok Pundit said...

From now on before I want to put my hair out and go on a rant about the next ridiculous opinion piece in The Nation I will look here first. You saved me from going on a long rant with this article and Kavi's article.

It is a daily feeling, but sometimes I just can't leave it be and have to rant. Now, I can just link to you when I feel frustrated.

Fonzi said...


We need to share the burden.

Before I rant, I usually check your site first.

Sometimes writing the same crap all the time gets to me also.

The thing that the guys at The Nation don't get is that we are their best friends and supporters.

Quite honestly, I just want them to be better journalists and I want them to take their duty in a "free" society seriously. That is my agenda. Unfortunately, they are fighting me for their right to be mediocre and discreditable.

If they don't care about quality, minimal journalistic standards, and professional integrity, then we might as well just let the Thaksins and the juntas in the world rule forever.

But at least I will try to put up a fight.