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    Volume 9 Issue 15| April 9, 2010|

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A Simple Lesson in Democracy

It's not every day that we can hear soldiers lecture "pro-democracy" protesters about democracy. But this is Thailand where every line has been blurred, where "good deeds" are misinterpreted or spiral downward to the dark side, and where bad traits of "the other side" are there not to be denounced, but to be copied. Are Thais fighting because they are so different, or because they are so alike?

The red shirts last week intimidated the country's leading academic institution, Chulalongkorn University, by threatening to stage a rally there. The movement was responding to a plan by those who came out against their campaign to gather at the campus. Red-shirt leaders saw the "pro-peace" plan taking place at Chulalongkorn as a conspiracy in disguise.

They deemed the "pink movement" as yellow shirts in disguise, and called the university a servant of the elite. The university had to close down for the weekend and the pink movement agreed to gather instead at Lumpini Park. The Army, meanwhile, took the opportunity to publicly tell the red shirts that one of democracy's first rules was to respect other people's right to express their opinions.

Like the yellow shirts before them, the red shirts are trying to rush things and in the process forgetting what they came here for in the first place. In an attempt to "get democracy" at all costs, the red movement seems to have got the "principles" all mixed up.

Red leader Weng Tojirakarn was one great example. He has lashed out at the media for mocking his name but chosen to be part of something far more sinister - the use of blatant lies to fire up lesser-informed protesters.

Why can't Weng stand being mocked by the media but at the same time can tolerate, if not endorse, when "that audio clip" was repeatedly played to the red shirts? What kind of democracy fighter is he who can't take a little teasing but is willing to feed fellow fighters with lies that could drive them to the point of suicidal vengeance?

The red shirts think that what happened to ousted former Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra and his political movement was unfair, an application of double standards. A lot has happened to Thaksin and those associated with him, and while it may be debatable whether those things were right or wrong, it is very wrong for the red shirts to imitate the "wrong ones" in a bid to show that they are right.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva

"Two wrongs can't make a right" is the argument used to denounce the coup that toppled Thaksin. But now the red shirts have shown they would not mind doing what their rivals did. What's the point of fighting ideologically then, if we have to concede that our opponents' methods work better?

The red shirts must not trap themselves. Their opponents are hoping that they will, but the movement must fight the temptation of the dark side, which is far more powerful than they think it is. The "ammart" or the media or the military in fact should be the second or third priority.

Of course, it is hard to fight "undemocratic" elements, but it's harder not to selfishly mistake ourselves as "democratic". Democracy is strange. Everybody wants to associate with it, but the more one tries, the farther it drifts away.

If the red shirts fail to learn what Army spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd told them - that democracy means tolerating different opinions - then sooner or later the movement will become one of those organisations scattered around this world, where the "democracy" or "democratic" or "liberation" attached to their names simply means nothing.

--Editorial Desk
The Nation (Thailand)



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