Tolerance tough when injustice lingers
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Tolerance tough when injustice lingers

The public have been unusually moved and vocal over the authorities' campaign to deny bail. (File photo)
The public have been unusually moved and vocal over the authorities' campaign to deny bail. (File photo)

Our society seems short of love and compassion -- not only for political dissidents but also for the socially-cast underdog and economically impoverished.

We talk big about the rule of law but seem to forget about tolerance and forgiveness.

In particular, we tend to forget how to embrace differing views on important issues, including gender and ethnicity.

At times, it seems we can see some flickering lights in the darkness but they are always put out, and our hopes evaporate.

Achara Ashayagachat is Senior News Reporter, Bangkok Post.

Anwar Hayiteh, a young Pattani-based activist and convicted BRN supporter who was sentenced to 12 years in jail was released with a pardon on Jan 7 after serving three years, eight months and seven days.

But another "Anwar", a former opposition leader in Malaysia, has been jailed for two years now on sodomy charges in what is believed to be a political case.

Last month, prosecutors established a positive precedent by dropping criminal charges against Naritsarawan Kaewnopparat, a Thammasat University graduate who has sought justice for her dead uncle, an army private tortured to death during military training.

In Bangkok, while some elderly lese majeste prisoners have also been released on pardons over the New Year, the number of new lese majeste cases has also soared in the past four months.

And we should not forget the case of anti-coup activist Jatupat "Pai Dao Din" Boonpattararaksa who was thrown into jail after posting a BBC article on Facebook and was accused of defaming the King in violation of Section 112 of the Criminal Code and Computer Crimes Act, while no charges have been brought against the British media outlet.

Understandably, there are general criteria for temporary release.

But I cannot help but doubt our justice system when bail is approved for convicted murderers and not those seeking the right to free speech.

Pai was denied a series of bail requests from his detention on Dec 2 until he was formally indicted last week. He remains behind bars, now into his third month.

The final-year Khon Kaen University law student is already facing four distinct criminal proceedings relating to his participation in protests and handing out of materials urging voters to reject the draft constitution prior to the Aug 6 referendum.

He was initially given bail but the Khon Kaen Court has now revoked it.

Pai could face up to 40 years in jail if the court ends up convicting him.

This month is just the second of the year, so we should make a few resolutions.

Buddhists have just celebrated Makha Bucha Day recalling with thankfulness the teachings of Lord Buddha which include love, compassion, detachment and impermanence.

As we're also celebrating Valentine's Day today, I believe we should spare some compassionate thoughts for those who think and act differently from us.

Recently, we learned of the case of Buku FC-initiated football for Muslim girls in the far South which has caused wide debate. There are allegations against those behind the idea, a group of non-Muslims who aim to promote youth activism and gender diversity, that they are "brainwashing decent Muslim daughters with the evil thoughts of lesbians". Heated arguments have evolved into hate speech in social media, which is unfortunate.

Although I'm not pious, philosophically speaking I believe all religions including Islam, Buddhism and Christianity preach about loving and caring.

Allah is forgiving and merciful. Buddha is compassionate and Jesus Christ's teaching that one should turn one's cheek to the enemy also suggests he would embrace those who differ from us.

With regard to politics, I hope the government knows that those who are broad-minded shall be loved and remembered by the people.

By contrast, blocking civil society from seeking the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly casts a shadow over the 2018 election.

Leaders who keep carelessly silencing their critics simply leave a stain on their legacy.

True spiritual leaders want us to show fairness no matter what, even toward somebody we hate, even at times of emotion and anger.

Maybe we can use more our heart and less of our head as we contemplate the future.

With Makha Bucha Day still fresh in our minds, I'd like to seek forgiveness from anyone who may have been upset by my straightforward but honest views on life, human rights and politics.

We can end up with peace of mind if we remember the good thoughts of others and forgive those who hurt us.

Yet asking one to forget the unjust and traumatic chapters in recent history -- either in Bangkok or the far South conflicts -- is perhaps a little too much as justice hasn't been served in many cases.

But at least it is my hope that by not starting new conflicts or triggering bad thoughts, we can help create a wave of positive thinking among the public. That is what this society needs.

Achara Ashayagachat

Senior reporter on socio-political issues

Bangkok Post's senior reporter on socio-political issues.

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