Fighting corruption with corruption

Fighting corruption with corruption

Two months ago, the protest against the blanket amnesty bill was a thing of beauty. It was democracy in action where the people showed the Pheu Thai-led government that their voice mattered, even if it was the voice of the minority.

The minority took on Thailand's most potent political machine, headed by Thaksin Shinawatra, and forced his sister, prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, to shelve the bill that would have granted an amnesty to her brother.

Not a shot was fired. No blood spilled. No bombs thrown. No buildings burnt. The wealthy, the middle class and the poor came out in legions and showed the red-shirt United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship what a civil movement could achieve without violence.

In maternity wards across the world, newborn babies smiled a little. Well, that was two months ago. It may as well be two lifetimes ago.

Since then, Suthep Thaugsuban and his People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have done their best imitations of Jatuporn Prompan and the red shirts. Shots have been fired. Blood has been spilled. An uprising has been called for. Come tomorrow, they will attempt to shut down Bangkok.

The reason for all this, they claimed, is to reform Thailand and uproot corruption. This, of course can't be done completely, but at least they can try to the best of their ability.

However, the Thaksin political machine has only been corrupting for the past 10 years, and the practice is merely a natural extension of the ongoing corrupt practices of centuries past that exist in all levels of Thai society.

Thaksin's corruption and human rights abuse records are terrible. But even if Thaksin had never been born, corruption and human rights abuse would still be plaguing Thailand at all levels today.

To get rid of the Thaksin regime is just to clip dirty toenails _ with a rusty clipper, no less. Beware of infection. The clipper is rusty, because heading the PDRC is a group of people representing the old way, the ongoing corruption of centuries past.

But it has to start somewhere, the PDRC would argue, and starting with Thaksin and the Pheu Thai Party is as good a place as any. Well, let's entertain that.

Fight corruption by following the lead of another notoriously corrupt political figure, Suthep; by storming government offices, conducting running battles with the police and planning to shut down the entire capital city; and by emulating the practices of the red shirts three years ago. The irony.

In the name of king and country, the PDRC would fight corruption by corrupting the rule of law, corrupting the democratic process and, come tomorrow, corrupting the entire capital city. See the problem?

Drastic situations require drastically intelligent measures, not drastically stupid ones. Fight fire with fire and everyone gets burned. It's simple chemistry. Fight corruption with corruption and that's double the corruption. It's simple arithmetic. You can close your eyes and ears, you can refuse to recognise it, but it will still be true.

The protestors started at the right place two months ago, to fight corruption with democracy through civil disobedience. But somewhere along the way, as too often happen, a good thing was hijacked by those who know how to exploit the righteous fervour of the people. The line between civil disobedience and civil destruction blurs.

Think outside the box.

India's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was launched in November, 2012. Aam Aadmi means ''common man''. It was born out of a movement called ''India against Corruption''. The goal of the AAP is to change the system, the outdated tradition of Indian politics plagued by corruption. Its supports come mainly from the urban areas.

Both India and Thailand are known for corruption and huge gaps in wealth, development and education, as well as a plenty of cultural baggage from a feudalistic past and a social hierarchy that would have the notion of equality under the law shudder in horror.

In last month's Delhi legislative assembly election, the AAP came second to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and beat the Indian National Congress, the two major political parties that dominate Indian politics.

The BJP refused to form a government, so the AAP formed a coalition government. Its leader became chief minister of Delhi. Of course, the AAP is flawed and has its detractors, but it has achieved victory within a year of launching.

The platform was anti-corruption. The support base was urban. The aim was to reform and achieve good governance. If India can do it legally and democratically, why can't we?

If the thousands in the streets want change and reform _ many are among the educated, wealthy and influential class _ why not get together and form a political party, a third alternative? The numbers and the passion are there. The resources are there.

Why not stop this nonsense of using corrupt practices to fight corruption, while the entire society still practises the corruption of centuries past as a daily routine?

Why not show the world and supporters of Thaksin how change can be made and reform can be achieved by educated and intelligent people, through employing good governance?

Why not defeat the Thaksin political machine legally and democratically with a third alternative?

Why not?

Contact Voranai Vanijaka via email at

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post columnist

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

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