Killing society with hate
published : 9 Nov 2012 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra would have been in Myanmar's border town of Tachilek today if rumours about an assassination plot against him hadn't surfaced first.
Thousands of red-shirt supporters should have been there too, to meet and greet the Pheu Thai de facto leader.
The much-publicised Tachilek trip, however, has been cancelled after Thaksin's son, Panthongtae, posted on his Facebook page on Sunday saying the seizure of war weapons near the hotel where Thaksin was intending to stay was linked to a plot to kill his father. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung confirmed the plot the next day. He claimed a suspect in the arms seizure case confessed the weapons were prepared to attack Thaksin.
National Security Council (NSC) secretary-general Paradorn Pattanathabutr also said the assassination plot was "well-founded" although a few hours earlier he claimed there were no links between the weapons seizure and any plot to kill Thaksin.
The assertions from the deputy prime minister and the NSC chief were more than enough to justify Thaksin's cancellation of the Tachilek visit.
Thaksin shortened his Myanmar expedition to a one-day trip to Nay Pyi Taw where he met Myanmar President Thein Sein yesterday.
Many people have treated the assassination rumours as entertainment rather than political or crime news. They believed the whole story was made up either to get Thaksin's name back on the front pages or for him to use as his excuse to cancel the trip.
Some said Thaksin did not even want to go to Tachilek in the first place, while others joked that Thaksin scrapped the trip because he didn't want to pay a lot of money to red-shirt supporters and Pheu Thai MPs who were preparing to meet him there.
Or maybe there is a more serious reason behind Thaksin's no-show at the Thai-Myanmar border, such as a request by the Myanmar authorities who might be upset with the ousted prime minister's political movements there.
Like many people, I think the whole story has been made up. It was just political spin.
But at the same time, I feel increasingly upset with Thaksin's opponents' reactions to the assassination plot rumours.
No matter if the plot to kill Thaksin is genuine or fake, it has again exposed the violence and hatred residing in our society.
After news about Thaksin's planned visit to Tachilek broke, a People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) commentator said he wished minority groups in Myanmar would do "a favour to Thailand" by killing the former premier.
When Mr Panthongtae said he and his two sisters would reunite with Thaksin at the border town, a female host of ASTV's news talk programme said: "Good. Let them go, so they will [die] together there."
The desire to see Thaksin die has dominated ASTV satellite television broadcasts over the past several days.
I'm neither a fan nor a supporter of Thaksin. I agree with many points which the PAD has raised against him and the government of his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. But when it comes to a call to kill, I think it is too much.
It scares me to think that we are now living in a society where people show their support for killing or give a licence to kill someone they hate through the media.
One may argue that the PAD's pro-killing speeches were only aimed at attracting audiences or spicing up the show, but I think this kind of rhetoric and mindset will drive Thai society into a killing zone.
The PAD can criticise or expose the wrongdoings of their political foes as much as they want, but they must not support the murder of anyone.
Not to mention the fact that the death of Thaksin would not even bring about an end to the political problems and policy corruption in Thailand.
These problems are bigger and too complicated to be solved by eliminating just one or two guys.
It is dangerous to allow any political groups to instigate hatred against someone to a level that makes other people think he or she deserves to die.
Widespread satisfaction over the death of red-shirt warrior Maj Gen Khattiya Sawatdipol, who was shot dead at a red-shirt rally in 2010, and the demise of lese majeste prisoner Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died in jail this year, showed how hate campaigns work.
A call to kill, or gloating over the deaths of people, is unacceptable no matter if it comes from the red or yellow shirts.
Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.