On Sulak

8 10 2011

Jim Taylor of the University of Adelaide has sent this post to PPT:

What’s with Sulak?

I don’t know what it is about amaat who claim to be advocates for “democracy (without even understanding how it works) like “social critic” Sulak Sivaraksa, who has to continually try and drag Thaksin Shinawatra back into the limelight. His recent outburst over the fiction of Thaksin controlling certain print media (e.g. Matichon/ Khaosod) because it happened to say something “positive” about the Phue Thai Party leading up the last election is the last straw! Many would be forgiven in feeling somewhat confused over where Sulak actually stands between cheering idealistic elite-dominated past and a present social and political reality unfolding around him.

Let’s put some things into perspective: Proclaiming “dhammic democracy” from the pages of the late Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, Sulak clearly has a dilemma in the contradictions between: (a) his platitudes on the ills of Western capitalism, neo-liberalism and consumerism; and (b) his inability to come to terms with supporting a people’s elected government and democratic processes from the grassroots. He fails to perceive of how society can develop (by its own awakening rather than by a “guiding hand”), and in his lay preaching offers his followers only wishy-washy nostalgic comments on an “ideal Dhammic society”; one that seemingly cannot coexist with the amoral power of today’s global market forces. He recalls the time of Siam’s founding royal father King Ramkhamhaeng: “a perfect [in fact rather unequal and exploitative] society guided by Dhamma”. Although charged with lèse majesté, Sulak had charges dropped because of being a royalist and therefore himself apparently now untouchable. He unashamedly went on stage supporting the right-wing yellow shirts against an elected government and in praising the “positive elements” of the core leaders of PAD which successfully twice sabotaged a government elected by the people. He explained in a talk on “How to Achieve Our Democracy” a couple of months after the 2006 coup: “I will not offer any view on the recent coup d’etat. I will not criticize those who are in power now and will not discuss about the government of the present prime minister and his ‘parliament’. I think many individuals in power now are good. At least, they have good intentions and want to make changes to benefit the people as a whole…”.

Sulak, who cannot seem to get beyond a propagandized imagining of populist ex-PM Thaksin, who he compared ignobly to a dog on the PAD stage, was sadly silent when the state massacred 91 unarmed protestors in the streets of Bangkok. However, in one recorded interview he said that this incident was, quote, rather “unfortunate”! Even today Sulak has refused to criticize the military-backed regime of the last few years for its repression and violence. He had of course earlier cheered the military and neo-fascist yellow shirts when they came to power in the guise of conditional “peacemakers” on 19 September 2006. But, ironically, still the world piles accolades onto Sulak as a new world “peacemaker”!


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