SHOUTING DOWN THE OTHER SIDE
One feature of the current climate in Thailand is that rather than trying to see another side’s point of view, people seeking such an examination are shouted down. The heightened state of emotion translates as either you are on one side or the other. If you try to seek nuance you may be attacked as being pro-government or pro-red, depending on what incident, statement, rumour, or policy you choose to examine.
This is a difficult time for free speech. The only speech recognized as ‘free’ is that speech which supports the side of the argument. The reality is that free speech means you dig into the facts and circumstances and try to keep the emotions out of that search. Perhaps what has happened is so close, raw, and open that even though fires are out, the anger, hatred and outrage continue to burn.
There has been sufficient miscalculation, misjudgment, and breakdown of communication, leadership and conflict resolution that almost no one on either side comes out of this untainted. The fire of these emotions may be slowly burning out. Tuesday 25th May can be benchmarked as the start of dialogue and a reaching out to address underlying issues.
Atiya Achakulwisut writing in the Bangkok Post wrote: “I believe both main parties to the conflict had a role in complicating the situation.” She goes on to talk about how the protest and rampage has upended many of the truths accepted by Thais. She walked among the Reds and saw that it is a mixed group: radicals intend on violence and people who feel they’ve been excluded politically, socially and economically.
The major problem the Reds have had and will continue to have is their association through money and leadership and agenda with the former prime minister Thaksin. There is a deep feeling that Thaksin has been pulling the strings behind stage. It is difficult for many people to accept that Thaksin’s real agenda is expanding democracy in Thailand. Until the Reds have freed themselves from their connection to Thaksin, it will remain difficult for the Reds to gain politically. Simply put: there is a large segment of the population that will resist any attempt by the Reds to bring Thaksin back to power. Given Thaksin’s track record while prime minister, it is not unreasonable for many people to fear tyranny in the name of democracy would be the end result for Thailand if Thaksin succeeded in returning to power.
Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, has called for an independent and credible investigation of recent events. In Khun Anand’s view: “Whatever view one may hold about recent events, the grievances expressed by many of the demonstrators are valid. We need to have in place a comprehensive range of measures to tackle the following key challenges: 1. disparities in distribution; 2. deprivation of capabilities; and 3. inequalities in access and opportunities.”
This is the beginning of an important political conversation. As Khun Anand goes on to say, “Change is inevitable.” Embracing that concept is the first step toward building a new political consensus. Khun Anand has pointed the way forward. Hopefully all sides are listening and the shouting down of anyone who isn’t pushing "partisan politics" will end and voices of reason will move the country ahead. Khun Anand has challenged both sides to enter into a genuine dialogue and that is the way toward an eventual political solution.