Frustrations and valid demands

16 04 2009

Sanitsuda Ekachai is Assistant Editor at the Bangkok Post and no fan of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In a recent op-ed (16 April 2009: “The lie is out, now see truth for what it is”) she observes: “Thaksin has tapped into real popular frustrations with the status quo. They are fed up with the patron-client and the phuyai system and they want to have freedom of expression in order to make the establishment more transparent and accountable.” She adds: “These are valid demands in any democratic society.”

Just in case you thought that she was weakening in her stance against Thaksin, Sanitsuda continues, “Since there is no platform for them to express themselves openly and safely, they are forced to turn to the fugitive Thaksin whom they adopt as a symbol of challenge against authority. The Songkran riots showed how destructive things can get if their perceived injustice is ignored and whipped up by a powerful demagogue like Thaksin.”

This is at least a step ahead of those at The Nation who claim that all the protestors were bought by Thaksin or the Democrats view that all the rural “luk nong” were misled because they lack education and knowledge.

She continues: “Like it or not, the 2006 coup and the ensuing battles between the yellow and red shirts have opened a floodgate of dissatisfaction against old taboos. Since we cannot turn the tide, the only way forward is to provide a political safety-valve for change. This requires fixing structural inequalities and providing safety for political expression of all shades. It also entails a rethinking of the lese majeste law to strike a balance between cultural reverence and freedom of expression. An open society which allows dissenting views is not only an indicator of political maturity, it is also key to long-term peace. If and when that is the case, Thaksin Shinawatra’s political trantrums will become meaningless.”

This “cultural reverence” notion reflects Sanitsuda’s well-known penchant for rural romanticism and also appears to accept something like the Bowornsak argument about the monarchy and  lesè majesté. However, as she has done in the past in different contexts, Sanitsuda now needs to ask who it is that has created a society that is full of taboos, injustice, inequality and repression.


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