I'm an old-school mother who is reluctant to condone the modern school of spank-free parenting. Not that I enjoy handing out a spanking or two once my little one starts her meltdown routine. But as a single mother who works full-time, I guiltily admit I cannot afford a rod-free disciplinary method in order to ensure she grows up rational, conscientious and with self-esteem.
With Thai culture having its own version of the proverb "spare the rod and spoil the child", Thai people in the days of yore surely understood the necessity of firm discipline, as well as a system of punishments and rewards that some modern parents condemn, considering it is the source of our culture of bribing and blackmailing. Thai people are aware that you need to tie the cattle and spank the child if you love them. This long-cherished proverb should imply that we understand that if we want to prevent someone from continuing their evil deeds, punishment is needed.
Looking at the legal code reveals the peculiar nature of Thai laws that seem so lenient with punishment. Consider the maximum charge for an offence. The punishments for some offences are incredibly petty compared to the amount of damage such offences can cause, or have caused.
For example, if the law says a particular offence incurs a fine of not more than 10,000 baht, it implies that you can get away with paying 300 baht, if those in charge of enforcing the law permit it.
Legal experts must understand the rationale behind the way these punishments are designed better than I do, but I really can't see the point of being too soft on those who break the law.
I believe the severity of a punishment should be proportionate to the level of damage an offence causes. So, instead of identifying the "maximum punishment", wouldn't it be better to simply specify the minimum and let the punishment be decided based on the extent of the damage caused?
Let's consider a recent example. A beauty clinic was fined the maximum 30,000 baht for dispensing drugs without a physician's approval. Right, it should be understood that when we say "maximum" we mean the maximum fine stated by the law.
The sum of 30,000 baht may sound harsh for an individual. But for a profitable beauty corporation in an industry worth 20 billion baht, I don't think it's a big deal. The problem, sadly, isn't whether it's a big deal for the charged business operator.
What's more galling is that a crime like dispensing drugs without a physician's instruction _ a practice that can pose a health threat to many consumers _ warrants such a petty punishment. Perhaps the lawmakers think our well-being is not worth more than 30,000 baht?
I understand that in cases where consumers are affected or endangered by instances of medical malpractice, they can pursue it in court and ask for larger compensation.
But is it really worth the fuss?
Instead of waiting for a serious case to reach the courts, surely it would be better to find a way to prevent such illegal health practices by administering a more severe punishment, especially for a second violation.
Health issues aside, those who contribute to destroying the environment also get away with a slap on the wrist, especially compared to the scale of their industry, or the widespread, long-lasting damage they cause.
In Thailand, dumping wastewater into a public waterway incurs a fine of up to 200,000 baht. Bear in mind how much profit an industrial company makes and, more importantly, consider the potential damage caused by dumping wastewater into a community's water supply. I bet it's worth much, much more than the fine.
Now, let's have a look at California's penal code. A person convicted of dumping waste faces mandatory action that specifies only a minimum fine of US$250 (7,500 baht) and law-breakers are required to pay much more if the crime is deemed a serious threat to the public.
But perhaps our lawmakers aren't to blame. Perhaps we are all culpable. The problem lies with the fact that we don't give issues like health and the environment the priority they deserve. Our police are busy confiscating those bloody Furbies, letting factories, hotels, restaurants and even private households dump waste in public waterways day after day.
Samila Wenin is deputy editor of Life.
About the author
- Writer: Samila Wenin
Position: Muse Editor