Xenophobia no solution

Xenophobia no solution

A backlash is brewing against the United States government for issuing a strongly worded condemnation of the military coup and voicing criticism that the coup leader’s plan for peace and a return to election lacks clarity.

The same negative reaction has also emerged from Australia, which downgraded mutual relations and imposed travel restrictions on senior military commanders following the military takeover.

The anti-foreigner response, coming mainly from coup supporters, is not a surprise considering how entrenched the country’s political problems have been.

It’s still by no means a healthy development.

If left to fester, the anti-foreigner sentiment will quickly grow into xenophobia. Such an inward and backward attitude is not befitting the present time when connectedness and globalisation are the rules of the game.

For Thailand to genuinely return to normalcy, it has to regain its place as a respectable member of the world.

The coup leaders are in charge of the country now so it’s incumbent upon them to come up with an appropriate foreign policy strategy to achieve that goal and stop the narrow-minded nationalistic sentiment from getting out of hand.

On the web and social media, messages telling foreigners to mind their own business and not meddle in Thailand’s internal affairs have become prevalent.

Early this week, a video clip entitled "Thailand Coup 2014: Message to John Kerry and the World" was uploaded to YouTube. The clip, prepared by a so-called Network of Thais Overseas, was clearly in support of the coup as it said only a small percentage of people are protesting against the military while a large number of people support it.

Last Sunday, the American University Alumni Association (AUAA) also lambasted the US for being "ill-advised" in its harsh judgement of the coup.

As for Australia, the Australian Alumni Association of Thailand expressed its its "discomfort" with the cooling down of the ties. In protest against Canberra’s decision, however, the country’s Granular badminton team decided to withdraw from the Star Australian Badminton Open, due to take place in Sydney from June 24 to 29.

These knee-jerk, vindictive responses won’t help Thailand look better in the eyes of the international community. Contrary to how some groups of people may have felt, the country needs the international good grace in order to move forward, to grow and to realise the potential of our people.

The coup-makers must set out to work immediately to make sure that an appropriate policy is put on track and expertly executed to shore up the failing foreign sentiment.

So far, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has resorted to asking for understanding and patience as it concentrates its efforts on the first of its three-stage plan to return to democracy. That first stage is supposed to last three months and it’s about forging reconciliation. Some musical events have been held in Bangkok while forums to bring conflicting groups together are promised around the country down to the district level.

At some point, the NCPO will realise that these activities won’t mend the rift.

It will have to be content with providing security during a short transition time and move the country onwards, back to democratic rule.

The world does not care about the idea of a "benevolent coup".

What the junta will have to do is to address the international concerns seriously and sincerely. These include a return to civilian rule and democracy as soon as possible, a release of political detainees plus avoidance of arbitrary detention and respect for human rights and media freedom.

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