No such thing as a ‘clean’ witch-hunt
Are we to believe that a legal limbo or administrative void will simply happen and a new beginning will be born?
Are we to believe that a form of absolutism will rule in Thai society afterwards? That a perfect or perfectly uniform community will emerge in which every citizen thinks along the same lines, worships the same thing, pursues and protects the same interests?
Are we to believe that it is okay to "get rid of" people who defame the monarchy?
I don’t. That is why I believe Dr Rienthong Nanna and the ultra-royalist group that he recently founded must stop its witch-hunting activities.
Dr Rienthong, who serves as director of Mongkutwattana General Hospital and is a core member of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), set up the Rubbish Collection Organisation (RCO) earlier this month.
The group’s name is a misnomer. Its single aim is to "eradicate" people who dishonour the monarchy.
It’s not clear what the RCO means by "eradicating", or what they consider to be acts of "dishonouring" the monarchy.
It seems these terms and probably actions to be taken in accordance to them are left to be decided by individuals who may choose to join the group.
In other words, it’s allowing people to take the law into their own hands and to start the justice process by themselves.
Does this mean the RCO is a supremacist organisation?
How "clean" the country will be after the RCO has accomplished its mission, I shudder to imagine.
In a posting on the RCO’s Facebook page yesterday, Dr Rienthong asked the national police chief to understand his need to set up an armed force with enough capacity to handle what he claimed are armed groups belonging to “anti-monarchy terrorist networks”.
He did not produce any evidence to back up his claims. But the doctor, who is also an army major general, insisted that his armed force is primarily meant for self-protection — not to hunt or kill lese majeste suspects. This is such a preposterous statement.
He may outwardly deny that his RCO group intends to witch-hunt, but calling people who may fall under its definition of being anti-monarchy "rubbish" is enough dehumanisation to justify violence against them.
Such dehumanisation could even be enough to warrant a need for them to be "disposed of" — whatever that means — which would be in accordance with the group’s mission statement.
Dr Rienthong said that his group’s members are ordinary people willing to track down lese majeste suspects, but it is not exactly clear who they are.
More than 120,000 users have clicked "like" on his group’s Facebook Page. Are they really his supporters and how are they accountable to him?
Who will take responsibility if the group’s attempt to "collect the garbage" gets out of hand?
In setting up the ultra-royalist group, Dr Rienthong is essentially telling ordinary people they have the power to distinguish for themselves who qualifies as human and who is trash.
It does not sound like a power that one human being can impart onto another.
Do not forget that we have seen similar ultra-royalist activities mixed with chaotic political conflicts before. It resulted in the massacre of Oct 6, 1976.
Do not forget either that a legal or administrative void has never occurred by itself or through a court ruling, despite what the PDRC may hope.
It’s usually a bloody situation — a clash, a crackdown and numerous deaths — that trigger it and set off a military takeover and new political cycle, however imperfect.
I don’t believe that we need such destruction to create a political void. I don’t believe we will see a better beginning that way. I don’t believe either that our society is or will be a uniform one in which people think the same thoughts and worship the same things.
Society need not be "clean" according to an individual or group’s standards. But it does need to be a just one based on mutually agreed upon rules, not supremacist ideas.
Atiya Achakulwisut is Contributing Editor, Bangkok Post.
Columnist for the Bangkok Post
Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.