Thailand Sans Politicians

Junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks to reporters in 2016 at Government House in Bangkok.

Retention

To state that some Thais have lost faith in politicians and the democratic system is an understatement. The word “politicians” has for them become a pejorative. Unless your parents were politicians, to say you want to grow up and become one is like saying you want to become a con man or a charlatan.

In these people’s utopia, there would be no politicians, no elections and some selfless ruler would somehow magically run things happily ever after and forever.

This is not just the stuff of naive personal musings but mainstream thinking found in major newspapers as well. Post Today columnist Thawee Suraritkul wrote a piece Sunday posing the hypothetical.

Pravit Rojanaphruk

“Should we do away with ‘political parties, politicians and elections?’ Should we try ‘volunteer system, consensus and learn to love and unite?’ It would be best if we all take joint responsibility of society to the fullest and not allow bad politicians to claim and exploit the power we used to grant them any longer,” Thawee wrote, ending with a suggestion that the new constitution should only contain one article: “Reject politicians.”

Thawee is not alone in feeling disillusioned. People like Thawee are many, they may even be in the millions. Such views are simplistic, wrongly nostalgic and out of sync with a complex modern society, however.

These people tend to think Thailand would definitely be better off without politicians and elections. They might have forgotten that we are all political animals and that jockeying for power and interests is unavoidable in any human endeavor.

What will these utopians do with the people who disagree with them? Will they censor or imprison dissenters? Or will they just let a supposedly benign dictator do that for them? (Exactly what is happening now under the junta, the self-styled National Council for Peace and Order.)

Thailand’s population is close to 70 million, not a few thousand, so we all could meet town-hall or village style every now and then to decide on a myriad of affairs. In a large society, there’s no better way to ensure that whoever is running the country on our behalf is legitimate except through elected representatives because you may not like who I like, and vice versa. This is why even coup leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha, who usurped power from the electorate more than two years ago, talks about promised elections. Deep down, Prayuth knows he lacks legitimacy, and that’s why he always claims the junta’s rule is just temporary and pleads for “a little more time.”

Those who think Thai society prior to the existence of electoral democracy was cleaner and better should think twice. Even today, the year 2017, any honest Thai would admit that much cannot be openly written about the monarchy. Thus it falls to us to ask: How much do we really know about the true state of Thai society 100 years ago?

Was there ever a golden age where people were equal and could speak without fear, where they all loved one another, and willfully shared joint responsibility to the fullest?

I love “volunteerism,” as Thawee mentioned. It’s great to volunteer for the betterment of society. When you use force to stage a coup and rule over people by suppressing and incarcerating those who disagree you, it’s not volunteerism, no matter how well intended people like Prayuth may claim to be.

I am no fan of politicians. Actually no Thai politician is my idol or commands my total respect. That doesn’t mean I support unaccountable dictators like Prayuth, however. At least I can try to vote them out of office if I am not satisfied after four years or less. Today, Prayuth sounds as if he would love to be around in power, one way or another, for decades to oversee his quixotic “reforms” despite zero legitimacy, however.

Utopians like Thawee would have to try harder. If some people think there exists a truly ideal and legitimate alternative political system suited for Thailand in the 21st century, where millions often disagree, then convince them through reasoning. Day dreaming and becoming cannon fodder for dictatorship won’t do.