Fuzzy politics, fuzzy thinking

2 09 2009

The Nation’s Tulsathit Taptim comments on a tumultuous week of security crackdowns, lese majeste, non-rallies, rampaging authoritarianism and more in his article “Another week of trying to comprehend fuzzy politics” (2 September 2009). Well, some of them.

The audio clip “startled us” until it turned out to be “a great joke” that somehow became a “national security threat and a political bombshell.”

For once PPT can agree with Tulsathit. At the same time, that Abhisit Vejjajiva is seemingly coming under the spell of authoritarian politics cannot be ignored. He may not be the tyrant Tulasathit jokes about, but he is on the slippery slide.

Where we disagree on the clip is when he says that itjust may have been “intended to spark a red riot.” No evidence of that.

Then the author turns to the 18-year jail sentence meted out to Darunee Charnchoensilpakul which he says “left me speechless.” He links the sentencing of Da Torpedo to Jakrapob Penkair and his “renewed … red revolution agenda” without actually drawing the connections. Jakrapob is also facing lese majeste charges and his call for political change involves a hard line against the monarchy.

Then the author has some seemingly odd comments: “It’s either us or them. Someone has to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There have been periods in history when Da Torpedo would have been beheaded on the spot for making far less controversial remarks in public; when everyone related to Jakrapob would have been hunted down and wiped out; and when, of course, the Abhisit ‘statement’ would have been anything but funny.” When? Beheadings suggest that he refers to the period before 1932. But what is the point?

Tulsathit explains: “We have come a very long way…”. Maybe, but he adds something that should be obvious to all, but worth saying again: “… what can be said about the 18-year sentence when murderers, rapists or big-time fraudsters are given less?”

The argument that “the judges were seemingly oblivious to political circumstances” seems unwarranted. Rather, they are very well aware of the politics they play. But the author is right to see the “verdict … [as] a stern message to others than a straightforward handling of Daranee’s thinking. Like it or not, this could be a big gift for those campaigning against the lese majeste law.”

Tulsathit worries that there is ” the possibility that it could provoke a backlash locally and make it even harder for both sides of the polarity to find common ground. What the woman said and did was controversial to say the least, but 18 years covered it all up…”.

But here’s the fuzzy thinking and making a mountain range out of a molehill: “If the 18 years is a result of ultra-conservatism, the doctored voice clip is probably an example of what could happen if ‘freedom’ is allowed to run amok.”

Is it true that “too much freedom” can result in political shenanigans? Well yes, but so can authoritarianism. Recall the framing of all kinds of political activists and their murder in the past on issues we might loosely label “national security.” More openness, transparency and debate does not necessarily mean sensible politics, but it does give sensible politics a chance.


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