THAI GOVERNMENT MOVES TO SILENCE THE PEOPLE – Thailand remains a fledgling democracy and with it a developing nation where the UN appears to continuously over look disturbing human rights abuses.
Few feel that Thailand is truly capable of becoming a stable democracy due to a number of underlying factors including, but not restricted to, the vast wealth divide, education and external interference; mainly from the self-imposed exile Thaskin Shinawatra whose sister Yingluck currently holds the position as the country’s Prime Minister, in all but name.
Established democracies understand the need for a free press and above all the right to information and a right to freely, without persecution, express an opinion.
Unfortunately Thailand appears some way off creating such a system and in fact the Government’s latest news will likely set back democracy 50 years or more.
Some journalists are accusing Yingluck Shinawatra of creating an autocratic and patronising administration and with the announcement of draft legislation that that is designed to protect ‘intangible cultural heritage’ many feel Ms. Shinawatra is moving towards governance through dictatorship.
According to opponents of the new Bill it seeks, under Article 40, to punish anyone whose words or actions using ‘intangible heritage’ that including offending the monarchy, religion, national security as well as any perceived public order and morality.
Under the Bill any such offence could be punishable by a 50,000 Baht fine (US$1,700) and or two years imprisonment.
Meebal.com asked one insider for their views on this proposed law…
“Whether the bill passes the legislators is frankly irrelevant. Thailand is simply a ‘self-proclaimed’ democracy. When a political party is allowed to openly buy votes and when a country is ruled with a rod of iron by just a few extremely wealthy people, then democracy is just hollow rhetoric to appease the ignorant masses.
This is a Government whose tenure is held together with fear and oppression and regardless of which political party is in power little if anything ever really changes – the rich get richer and the poor get offered subsidies that are then channeled into the pockets of the rich.
The Thai people will never succeed in creating a true democracy whilst they are suppressed with sub-standard education and where corruption is rampant.”
The disturbing issue here, according to opponents of the bill, is that those who exercise the law will also have complete autonomy to interpret what may or may not constitute the intangible cultural heritage violation that therefore needs protecting.
Thailand is already heavily criticized for its overuse of the controversial ‘Lese Majeste’ law in which it is a criminal offence to produce anything, images, video, text or verbal, that is seen to admonishing the King or indeed any other member of the Royal family.
Visiting foreigners are often advised to never speak about the King or the Royal family; regardless as to whether the perception is derogatory or not for it could be misinterpreted resulting in a heavy fine and or up to 20 years imprison.
The Lese Majeste law has long been a bone of contention with many although even speaking about abolishing the law can be interpreted as a slight against the monarchy and therefore an indictable offense.
Legislators of the Bill appear to be trying to force respect and appreciation for the county’s culture, religion and monarchy however such an approach will inevitably lead to resentment and opposition and often when this happens the result is violent confrontation between the people and security force; something Thailand has become synonymous with over the last 50 years or more.
Again those currently opposing the Bill feel that the Government is attempting to strip away the little democracy that exists and even control people’s thoughts, not through national pride, but rather by coercion or force if necessary.
A democratic society cannot flourish when ideologies of others are forced upon them without open debate in which the majority decides.
Once again the Thai Government will almost certainly receive a backlash from this latest debacle, not just from the international community but rather more importantly its own citizens who are not unaccustomed to violent confrontation when they feel an injustice is being made by its Government.
Is there an answer to Thailand’s increasing social problems which are widely acknowledged to be caused by the wealth and education divide?
The answer is yes, but for this to happen would require the Bangkok elite to distribute the wealth more evenly and provide an education system that allows people to grow and develop new ideas for the prosperity of the nation.
The critical elements here are that corruption and control needs to be eradicated and above all allow the media to openly report on any issues that affect the country and its people
Currently Government figures are not seen as the bastions of democratic growth and development but rather an entity of oppression by a few wealthy elitists’ – where no amount of money or power could ever quench their appetite; regardless of the detrimental effects on the nation and its people.
If such a law is approved then it will only ever serve those who wish to control by any means available and as such will never allow a democratic system to succeed.