Will this be a Happy or Sorry 2013?

In his New Year broadcast from Siriraj Hospital at 8am on Tuesday Jan 1, His Majesty the King expressed the wish that Thais show compassion and affinity towards one another.

His Majesty conveyed his desire that the people bind together as families and friends to bring happiness and prosperity for themselves and the nation. This was very gracious of His Majesty, who always shows compassion and concern for the welfare of the people.

His Majesty the King has called on all Thais to extend compassion to others as a way to lead a happy life, in the royal New Year’s greeting card.

No doubt, those watching across the nation were grateful for those kind words and well wishes. No doubt, the tens of thousands who went to Siriraj Hospital to wish His Majesty good health only proved the deep love and respect that Thais have for our King. 

Also no doubt, very few will heed His Majesty’s words – and that’s the sorry part of it. 

Every year we shower love and praise on His Majesty. We chant "long live" and tears flow down our cheeks. Also every year, we as a people simply never heed His Majesty’s words. To those who do, then all power and respect to you. But collectively, as a nation, look around, we simply don’t.  

If we are to start 2013 with anything, let’s start with the truth. We are too well-practised at wishful dreaming, but are shamefully averse to actual doing. We as a people talk big, but do little, and if we don’t change, 2013 will be another disappointing year for Thailand as a collective nation. 

There’s more. 

A nationwide Suan Dusit poll, conducted between Dec 25 and 31, asked people about their New Year wishes. Here are some of the answers. 

There were 26% who wished for an end to social conflict; 60% wanted politicians to stop bickering; 25 per cent demanded political office holders stop corrupt activities and not put their own interests ahead of those of the people; and 14 per cent expected politicians to do more to improve the image of politics and earn the people's trust.

Those respondents will surely be sorely disappointed, as they were the year before and the year before and the year before. Every year we go through the same motion. Pollsters ask the routine questions. Respondents give the predictable answers. Newspapers fill column space. The next day we all go back to the conflict and bickering, the corruption and the distrust. 

The problems are manifold, not least of which is that we always seem to wish other people would do this or that, but rarely look at ourselves and take upon ourselves the onus of what we should or should not do. 

The New Year list should not be a "wish list", but rather a "to do list", or even just a "not to do list". Perhaps with the right start of doing/not doing rather than just wishing, we might get somewhere. 

For example, those of us who chant "long live" with tears streaming down our faces -- the "not to do list" in order to carry out His Majesty’s words and bring the people together in compassion and affinity is simply to not support the misuse of the les majeste law and the witch hunts it has led to over the past years. Show compassion and affinity for those who have a different political alignment and loyalty.

For example, those of us who demand an end to corruption should perhaps stop giving "baskets", asking for "favours" and using "connections" in our everyday personal, business or political dealings. And in the next election, to actually not vote for those politicians we know to be corrupt. 

For example, those of us who wish for an end to social conflict, perhaps we should end it by stopping the calls  for the blood of "murderers" and "terrorists", and instead champion democracy and the rule of law without taking sides, either yellow or red, and let justice – imperfect though it may be – follow its course without prejudice  and political interference.

The New Year "not-to-do list" is seemingly simple. It is simply not to be hateful and narrow-minded, but instead to be compassionate, honest and sensible. How successful this would be can be easily measured by the reactions  of those who read this article, meaning the individual reader can gauge his or her own reaction. 

The reaction to the les majeste example should, by and large, be agreeable -- but that doesn’t say much because the Bangkok Post readers do not exactly represent the Thai demographic. About 60% of Bangkok Post readers are foreigners, and 40%Thais. And while the lese majeste extremists are a minority, they are a powerful group. 

The reaction to the corruption example will probably be agreement across the board, not just Bangkok Post readers in particular, but Thais in general. But to actually ‘’not do it’’ is however another issue – and it’s not just Thais who participate in the corruption. 

But to the murderers/terrorists example, here is where Bangkok Post readers in particular and Thais in general have much in common, divided -- those driven by colour-coded hate and senselessness, and those who are fair minded.   

Will this indeed be a Happy or a Sorry New Year 2013? Look within yourself for the answer.

Yellow- and red-shirt supporters trade blows in a clash outside the Crime Suppression Division office in Bangkok on Sept 25, 2012. (Photo by Surapol Promsaka na Sakolnakorn)

About the author

Writer: Voranai Vanijaka
Position: Political and Social Commentator