Criticism, it's just noise, forget it

Criticism, it's just noise, forget it

People really need to take a deep breath and chill out. Every time some Western politician says something critical we jump as if someone has lit a fire under our feet.

Western politicians are supposed to say politically correct things to please their constituents. That's what they do. We don’t need to go all dramatic over it. 

Take John Kerry, for instance. Bless him, I wish he had beaten George W Bush back in 2004. He has been very critical of the May 22 military coup, and a lot of Thai people are very upset about it. 

Suddenly, it’s not just about hating Thaksin Shinawatra, but also about hating the United States, and the whole of Western democracy. People, please relax. Words are just so much noise. 

Kerry’s the secretary of state representing the world’s foremost proponent of democracy, the United States. Of course he would have to condemn a military coup. This doesn’t mean he’s supportive of the former Pheu Thai government. 

After all, Kerry approves of the uprisings in the Ukraine and in Egypt that led to the ousting of their democratically elected presidents. So there you go.  

Of those uprisings, he said, the yearning for change, empowerment and modernity were "moving a lot faster than political leadership is either aware of or able to respond to’’. 

Of democratic elections, he said, ’’A democracy is not defined solely by an election’’.

‘’You can have a democratically elected government, but you don’t have democratically-instituted reforms that actually give you a democracy, a full, practising, functioning democracy."

And, ‘’And what you have in many places is a general election, a popular election, absent reform, present with great corruption, great cronyism and a huge distortion of democratic process.’’

See? Given these quotes, Kerry might as well have given Suthep Thaugsuban a foot massage for all the walking up and down Bangkok Uncle Kamnan has done, causing havoc everywhere. 

But politically, Kerry of course has to condemn the military coup. 

Not least of which is because, out of the 19 military coups in Thailand, the May 22 coup just happened to be one that wasn’t sponsored by the CIA. Otherwise, he might well be speaking differently. 

Understand that Kerry was critical of the democratically elected regimes in the Ukraine and in Egypt, because the former was pro-Russia and the latter was pro-Islam. Neither of which sits well with US foreign policy. 

So if Yingluck Shinawatra was smiling with Vladimir Putin instead of Barack Obama, or if she was a Muslim mullah instead of a Thai Buddhist, then Kerry may well be giving General Prayuth Chan-ocha a high-five. 

Context people, context – words are just noise. As is, Western democracies are just happy that Thailand doesn’t degenerate into a civil war because this would surely upset the regional balance of power and open the way for even more Chinese influence. 

It is all geo-politics, ladies and gentlemen. The US is suspending certain aid and military exercises. Yes, these are required gestures to keep up the status as the world’s proponent of democracy. 

True, the US and Kerry would love it if Thailand has a healthy democracy, but it’s a question of priorities  here. 

Washington's priorities are, for example, that Thailand continue allowing the use of the Utapao airbase for American covert military operations in this region. 

The US navy’s continued dominance of the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the Strait of Malacca is key to control of international trade and hence global hegemony.  

In the big picture, this means that Thailand and Asean stay firmly within the US shield of strategic alliance, rather than fall into the bosom of China. 

In addition, Thailand to continue an open-economic policy towards the US, which along with Japan, has  always enjoyed special privileges in trading and investment with the kingdom. 

Furthermore, the ties between the US and the Thai military are deep and decades old. The depth of the bond and strategic partnerships surpasses things such as a military coup or ten. 

So relax, people. Words are just noise. Politicians have to say politically correct things. Worry not. The kingdom is an important pawn in the regional power game. A coup here, a crackdown there, isn’t going to change that.  

As long as the ruling Thai regime, whomsoever it may be, plays ball instead of ping-pong, the US and Thailand will always be BFF (Best Friends Forever, like totally). 

Voranai Vanijaka

Bangkok Post columnist

Voranai Vanijaka is a columnist, Bangkok Post.

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