Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

I wonder if People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters must, in one way or another, take responsibility for where we are now as a country, nearly two years under the military regime. This is if you care to look at the situation, out of curiosity and an attempt at straightforward reasoning, rather than vengefulness.

They might admit it with nationalistic pride plus that benevolent khon dee smile, or argue with every imaginable Thaksin-obsessed explanation. I simply just wonder if all the street protests, the occupation of government offices, the boycott of the general election, the whistle-blowing, and the selfies with fashion accessories with Thai flag patterns, after all, worked like flakes on a snowball, collecting speed and size as it went downhill and finally crashed home. The date of the incident? May 22, 2014.  

But the blame game won't take us anywhere.

If modern Thai politics were a film, this blame game would work like a butterfly effect -- famously illustrated in the scene of Daisy's accident in David Fincher's 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -- that keeps rewinding back to the past: Thailand wouldn't have been in this state if that blanket amnesty bill hadn't been proposed, if Yingluck Shinawatra wasn't elected as prime minister in 2011, if there wasn't a coup in 2006, if Thaksin didn't sell shares of his corporation worth more than a billion dollars without paying taxes, if there wasn't such a thing as Thaksinomics, if Thaksin didn't found Thai Rak Thai in 1998, if then Palang Dharma leader Chamlong Srimuang didn't bring Thaksin into politics in 1994, and so on.

In events leading up to the May 22 coup, perhaps the biggest "if" of all is the rampant violence incited and committed by both sides. If the military hadn't taken control, civil war could have erupted. 

This game can only take us back as far as we want, never forward. What's most important, then, is now. Almost two years now under military rule, it's only those who deliberately turn a blind eye who could say the country has had a turn for the better. Not in the areas of reform and national reconciliation.

Some PDRC protesters might say the coup was never the ultimate goal. Sure, OK. It was just to uproot Thaksin's influence on Thai politics? All right. But now that everything has gone way out of the way, showing no sign of returning to a state of normalcy in the near future, will that I-didn't-mean-it-to-turn-out-this-way kind of excuse suffice?

It was the fear of Thaksin that made you think other Thais are not fit to think for themselves and vote. It is with the very same fear again which has made the cabinet's recent proposal to allow the military-led government to maintain power even after a new government takes office not much of a big deal, even though it would have caused an uproar under different circumstances.

If only we could look at the actuality of things, the actions committed, rather than the characters behind it and what values they are assumed to represent, we might realise that perhaps the so-called good leader is hardly any better than the corrupt one.

Will keeping quiet now do if, during the Suthep-led protests, you were so outspoken. The fact is silence is either support or acquiescence, hardly resistance.

The most challenging part of all this is not accepting any of this information as fact, but saying out loud that you no longer believe what you have doggedly believed in. Should you ever want to change that, to contradict yourself, to stick to your conscience rather than the communal agreement of your circle, it's about courage.

The American novelist Harper Lee's death last Friday was tragic yet timely in this respect, for she was one of those who knew courage and conscience best. Her acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird, though it couldn't be more different in issues, context and magnitude, is essentially about the same thing we're facing now in a conflicted society: Are we all humans -- black or white, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, red or yellow -- equal? Do we stick with what the majority of people, the villagers of Maycomb, or with conscience and human compassion like Atticus did against the whole town, in defence of the innocent black man, Tom Robinson. 

In Lee's only other book, Go Set a Watchman, which was published in 2015, the much-loved Atticus had turned into a racist. We found out later that Watchman was actually written first and is now believed to be the first draft of her famous novel. It's interesting to think about the sequence of this, about the courage with which she wrote the second draft. You know as well as I do why one is a classic and the other a flop.

Kaona Pongpipat is a writer of the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kaona Pongpipat

Writer for the Life section

Kaona Pongpipat is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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