Stuck in our own Orwellian nightmare

Stuck in our own Orwellian nightmare

Go and read Animal Farm. Watch Inception too, as they may help us appreciate the multilayered paradoxes that are Thai politics today. After all the diversions, however, the reality remains that the 2017 constitution must be rewritten, or we will be forever stuck with "all votes are equal but some votes are more equal than others".

Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha took flak last week after he recommended that people read George Orwell's Animal Farm.

At first, people were not sure whether he was making a joke, or a fool of himself. Here is a coup-maker who has run the country using authoritarian rule for five years. And he is telling people they should read a novel known around the world as one of the most profound satires of authoritarianism?

Was it self-mockery? Did the PM interpret Animal Farm differently to other people? Did he not understand the book at all? His spokesman even suggested that the book is not about politics after the PM's book choice became widely ridiculed, generating the hashtag of "time's up for the ruling pig".

The Animal Farm gaffe is one of many streaming out of the Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), which is still struggling to form a government.

First was its Ratchaburi MP, Parina Kraikup, who posted a video clip of herself criticising a fellow representative and spokeswoman of the rival Future Forward Party, Pannika "Chor" Wanich, using the rude prefix "E".

Faced with an avalanche of condemnation, Ms Parina tried to spin it by saying she did not use "E Chor" to refer specifically to Ms Pannika in her comment. She claimed that in the area where she came from, "E Chor" was generally used to refer to people who fail to obey rules.

Ms Parina's awkward attempt to backtrack prompted yet another round of disparagement as many people in her home province of Ratchaburi insisted her claim that there is such a phrase in the area's dialect is groundless, and that she had dragged the province through the mud just to excuse herself.

Ms Pannika has played down the furore by saying she has more important things to do. But Ms Parina has not stopped. Her father Tawee, a veteran politician and former deputy minister, entered the fray in defence of his daughter. Ms Parina also filed a complaint with police against people who posted insulting comments beneath the video.

This may just be the start of Thailand's political inception. Did Ms Parina believe that vulgarity and notoriety would give her a higher profile? Was she doing this to divert attention away from her party's failure to form a government? Was her behaviour approved of by a party that is presenting itself as the next coalition leader?

Then came the PM's Animal Farm recommendation which has led some people to wonder what the PPRP is thinking, or whether it has any thinkers at all. The PM's choice seems too ridiculous to be true. What dictator would tell people to read a book that does nothing but blast dictatorship?

Debates continue about what Animal Farm is actually about. Is it a parable on how people can't have everything they desire and must help each other, as deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak explained on behalf of the PM, or a scathing satire of dictatorship, as most people around the world believe?

In the midst of the political digressions, yet another controversial remark was made by the PPRP's Nakhon Sawan MP, Veerakorn Kamprakob. During a TV interview last week, Mr Veerakorn said the current constitution had been designed so that no parties could become the government except the PPRP.

Mr Veerakorn made the remark in the context that the junta-sponsored Senate will not support candidates from other parties to become PM nor would it pass laws should other parties form a government. In a way, if the PPRP is not the government, the country can't begin again, in his opinion.

Mr Veerakorn's comment seems too blatant to be good for his party but he may still have made a crucial point. Is it not true that we have ended up with a Senate handpicked by a handful of unknown people that may have more say than representatives endorsed by a national vote? Even now, no one is sure how to correctly calculate the quota of party-list MPs and, strangely enough, a party that did not win an election is rushing around to form a government.

If it wasn't for this constitution, we wouldn't be left in limbo with no government, no progress and a plethora of silliness.

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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