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Tuesday, March 23, 2010
No peace and little justice
When will this madness be over? How is this going to end? Why do we have to go through this again and again without any end in sight?
Are you asking these questions while watching the March of the Red Shirts, or when human blood was being splattered as a grim warning against what is to come?
The answers from the red shirts are loud and clear: No justice, no peace. No equal opportunities, no peace.
Who in his right mind can refute the goals of justice and equality? But all political movements claim they are pursuing justice and equality, don't they? That surely includes their arch rival the yellow shirts, who held the country hostage for months.
It must be noted, however, that these high-minded goals are often used to legitimise violence by leaders from all political shades and colours.
Red, yellow, military green or Newin blue - their supporters like to say that since the sources of discontent for their political camps are real, it follows that whatever means their movement leaders propose, are the solutions.
Thaksin's policy corruption and cronyism is real, so the Yellow Shirts believe that getting rid of Thaksin could save the country and the monarchy. The generals made it happen. But look at the current mess we are in - despite and since the coup.
Interestingly, cronyism and corruption are also the sources of discontent for the red shirts. But for them, Thaksin is small fry. The big fish is the Establishment which controls the network of power and connections to maintain the structural injustice. Since Thaksin dares to confront the Establishment, he must be brought back to continue "the change" momentum to dismantle the perceived root cause of social injustice. Hence the demand for a House dissolution to pave the way for Thaksin Shinawatra's return.
No House dissolution, no peace, they roared. But can Thaksin's return bring peace? Can PM Abhisit's aim to complete his four-year-term bring justice? Can the Red power - with or without Thaksin - make Thailand more just? And can the change-resistant status-quo do any better?
During the blood splattter hype, the only news that could compete with their protest was the royal cremation ceremony of Pol Col Sompien Eksomya, who was killed in a bomb attack in the restive South, after his superiors ignored his transfer appeal that came after decades of his service in the face of serious danger.
The outcry did not come only from the public against the positions-for-sale system in the police force. It also came from junior policemen who, like the late Pol Col Sompien, are treated as a different class from their bosses, who are graduates from the police academy.
When there was an attempt to reform the police some years back, junior policemen voiced support for a decentralised workforce with better welfare and a transparent system of promotion. The attempt failed because of fierce resistance from police bosses.
No matter who wins this crazy Thai politics of colours, justice is a pipe dream when the police force remains decadently corrupt.
Pol Col Sompien gave his life to bring normalcy to the restive South. He was not the first, nor will he be the last. But peace remains unreachable when the police and military are a big part of the injustice problem. So is the mainstream society, which has allowed ultra-nationalism to blind itself to the sufferings of the southern Malay Muslims.
The change of guard at the top will not bring peace or justice, no matter how loud you shout the words and how many people you bring on the streets.
So what will, then? Police reform? Land and tax reform? Political decentralisation? Community rights to manage natural resources? Freedom of expression? Respect for cultural diversity and human rights? Regard for the poor? Equitable allocation of resources? A more responsive judiciary? Political tolerance? More responsible media? The military's return to the barracks?
Instead of letting the elite from different political and ideological camps define justice and peace for their own good, we must set our own agenda. If not, these senseless political feuds without any meaningful change will haunt us endlessly.
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