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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Bangkok Post: Interview with Anand Panyarachun about Democracy

Nurturing the tree of Thai democracy

Former prime minister Anand Panyarachun discusses what is needed for democracy to take root and prosper

I thought this was a good interview, except for a couple puuyaiisms.

Puuyaiism 1.

First, democracy is not only about having a constitution. While most countries do have some form of a written constitution, there are others that do not, but just follow convention and tradition.

Every democracy in the world is governed by the rule of law. No politically mature country is governed by conventions and traditions.


Puuyaism 2.

Q: Is the democratic system suitable for Thailand then?

Mr Anand: Thais always ask: ''If people are not well-educated and there are rampant abuses of power, is democracy suitable for us?''


I never ask that question. If you still wonder if democracy is a good system, I would cite Winston Churchill, who once said: ''Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.'' [House of Commons speech on Nov 11, 1947]. I tend to agree with that view. Democracy, while not perfect, is superior to other systems of governance _ dictatorship, autocracy, oligarchy and communism.


That's the starting point. But democracy must also be nurtured in a good environment, within the context of a country's history and culture. I think we would be looking down on ourselves if we were to say that Thailand is an anomaly in terms of its struggle to advance democracy.


From the Sukhothai period, nearly 800 years ago, through to Ayutthaya and Thon Buri, if we compare our kingdom to the kingdoms in Europe, we will find that there were many undemocratic princely states in Europe ruled by violence and fear. There were also many tyrants who engaged in continuous wars. Many countries in the West only embraced democracy some 200 to 300 years ago.


Thai culture has a tradition grounded in the concept of righteousness _ to be a good person, to be kind and giving to others, to refrain from harming others, to exercise self control.


When you really examine Thai history, in the final analysis, the only thing that has mattered is power politics. Going back hundreds of years, there rarely has been instances of smooth transferences of power.

And if Thai culture is what Anand says it is, then why has there been so many political problems? There is a good side and a dark side to Thai culture, just like the force in Star Wars, but sometimes, just like in Star Wars, the Sith Lords trump the power of the Jedi Knights.

What occurred in Europe also happened in Thailand. This puuyai notion of Thai exceptionalism is a myth, and as long as we continue to be all about myths instead of about reality, then no serious examination of the roots of our problems can take place.

Other than these puuyaaisms, I think Khun Anand has a pretty good theoretical understanding of what it takes to have a functioning democracy take root in Thailand.

He should speak out about his notions of democracy more often. Maybe some people will actually start listening to him.


Note: The term puuyaiism is a term that was coined by fellow blogger Bangkok Pundit.

6 comments:

Matty said...

Time to give it up Fonzi and pack your bags. What is Star Wars Fonzi? It was an old sci-fi movie of no relevance to the topic you were going to 'deconstruct'. But of course it is possible you were trying to make a joke (following previous threads).

How about another Baht 30 million bad joke from Thaksin to a constitutional judge Fonzi? Surely that should have merit some giggles in your humor threads.

And why not deconstruct whether or not Thaksin should or should NOT face the music now that formal charges have been filed against him or his wife? Maybe now that Thaksin himself is a fugitive and could be a target by his former extrajudicial police, should he NOT worry that the reward for his head may be 'too much' or 'too demeaningly low' - - now that should be a good subject for 'sufficiency extrajudicial economy' don't you think so Fonzi.

I am just completely fed up with your pro-thaksin spins, Fonzi . . fed up!

Fonzi said...

Matty-

I am confused. Where is the pro-Thaksin spin?

Matty said...

Well Fonzi . . . did you NOT just write that Thaksin was a StarWars Jedi? And Jedis were entitled to rule in Thailand's politics were power matters the most and nothing else, whatever commoner puuyai Anand thinks to the contrary?

Ha ha ha . . got you Fonzi I got you stumped didn't I? . . . . and forgive my small deconstructing humor before the election ... It is never too early not too late in any Thai election for an April Fool jest.

Fonzi said...

Matty-

What I meant by the Star Wars analogy is that I think there are good sides to Thai culture, like Anand pointed out, and there are dark sides to Thai political culture, like corruption, greed, selfishness, that over-ride the good parts and cause problems for the country.


I wasn't referring to any particular political side, but I can see how you could have misinterpreted it.

Bangkok Pundit said...

Fonzi I have to disagree with you here:

First, democracy is not only about having a constitution. While most countries do have some form of a written constitution, there are others that do not, but just follow convention and tradition.

Every democracy in the world is governed by the rule of law. No politically mature country is governed by conventions and traditions.


When he is talking about convention and tradition, I assume he is mainly referring to New Zealand and the United Kingdom who don't have a written constitution (as in a single document). There is wikipedia page about constitutional conventions.

hobby said...

Lets not forget that Anand is generally considered as a good PM, and he was never elected.

IMO, someone like Anand would be unelectable in Thailand, and that's one of the reasons why I am not concerned about the concept of appointed senators - there are many good people who would never submit themselves to the dirty political game.