Saturday, August 18, 2007

UPI Asia Online Via Bangkok Pundit: Generals' agenda antithetical to rule of law

HONG KONG, Aug. 16


In a radio interview at the end of July, the interim prime minister of Thailand criticized anti-government protestors who fought with police outside the house of a privy councilor in Bangkok, the man whom they accuse of masterminding last year's military coup. General Surayud Chulanont told listeners that it was not right for the demonstrators to have gone there, and that all citizens ought to work together for the country. Everyone should cooperate and think about maintaining the image of Thailand abroad, he said.

Appeals to imagined harmony and supposed common interests have long featured in official rhetoric in Thailand, as in other countries historically dominated by small and relatively enclosed ruling groups. However, since the Sept. 19 takeover they have been reiterated with tiresome frequency by a regime that from the start professed to have assumed power "to heal the widening divisions among the people who were being incited to take sides, eroding unity...and leading to a severe social crisis."

In these and other similar pronouncements the generals betray their deeply conservative and regressive agenda. It is an agenda that is antithetical to the rule of law and human rights, upon which the abrogated Constitution had been written and which in recent years have obtained growing credence throughout the country.


I thought this was an extremely powerful essay.

The summation is spot on:

A society that denies conflict -- that counters each serious crisis with a coup, or whose leaders pretend to uphold a fictional order where everyone is in agreement -- is not on the road to recovery; it is on the road to nowhere. Appeals for consensus are cause for alarm, not festivity. They are the rallying cries of despots, not democrats.

By contrast, a peaceable society is built through acknowledgement that different people and groups have different views and interests, and that these can coexist and problems be addressed rationally, through public debate and non-violent disagreement. It is tolerant, even encouraging, of protest and discord. It directs its energy towards adapting government so as to solve disputes with minimal disturbance and use of force.

The conservatives that have again gained control in Thailand have no interest in such a society, as it would only further threaten their already diminished authority. The sustained and virulent backlash against the organizers and participants of the relatively small gathering outside the privy councilor's house, and monotonous appeals for national unity, speak to their anxieties and true designs.

Constitutional monarchy without constitutionalism; order without coherent law, and democracy without politics, these are the policy priorities in Thailand today. Not the rule of law and human rights, but their antithesis; and as a consequence, not peace and harmony, but more of their antithesis too.

I wish I knew who the author of the piece was, because I would encourage him to be at the forefront of speaking out on these issues. The things he addresses are not particular to Thailand either.

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