Thailand consistently adopts elements of Western culture – the ‘Golden Mile’ of innumerable shopping malls in Siam, popular culture, fashion, arts – the list is as long as it is debatable. It is not that Thailand does not stick by its own culture, but surely if a land is seeking to adjust to elements of the way of life in the West and to accommodate Western practices then there is some value in listening to what the West has to say.
We were all shocked by the coup. With hindsight it is easy to say we weren’t, but myself and everyone around me were surprised, even if only initially. It has been playing on my mind somewhat that whilst many Thais have reverted back to life as normal because “coups happen,” there is still something uneasy about the situation, not least of all because it is clouded in ambiguity and mistrust, and with the recent appointment of Surayud Chulanont it appears the situation has not got any better.
The shadiness with which the past three weeks’ events have been unfolding does not make me feel confident in the new constitution. What angers me the most is that the military now has all the power, when it had made clear that the power would be returned to the people. The Thai military is now going to be able to shape Thai politics because the constitution drafted on Sunday October 1 extends emergency law for one more year and further bans political activity during this period.
Can the people of Thailand really be happy about this? Surely a mai pen rai attitude only goes so far.
What is a country if not founded upon trust and if trust is really of secondary importance? There is practically no way to speak out against the constitution. Gatherings of more than five people are banned. It reminds me of the criminal justice bill issued in the UK in 1994 that attempted to outlaw raves (although I was but 12 years old). It is ridiculous, and there is no way to show these feelings.
The recent mini counter-coup that occurred on Friday September 22 drew just 20 brave individuals. What a remarkable group of people they were, and what a shame there were so few of them. Clearly there are people in Thailand who are not prepared to simply let things happen because ‘that’s how it is.’ The phrase ‘this is Thailand’ has never felt more appropriate.
To me at least, the most notable part of the new constitution is the continued limitations on press freedom. This is more than taking a step backwards to move forward, this is an outright denying of the people of Thailand the human right to understand what is happening in their country. It is not about being from the East or from the West, it is about being human and having the freedom to be human. For two weeks now Thailand has been the focus of the world’s media and general public, and so the irony of the situation is that my mother back in the UK probably knows more about the current affairs of the Land of Smiles than a great many of the locals do here.
The Thai military has failed to do what it set out to. Thailand is not better off, as they claimed it would be. The power is not in the hands of the people and neither is the ability to know about the current situation to the fullest extent. If Thailand does not want to be judged by Western ideals then it should stop emulating them altogether.
Whilst some see the military’s role as preventing an uprising from Thaskin’s supporters, I see it as mocking the people of this country.