Brexit and the Exits for Thailand

Flags fly outside Europe House, the European Parliament's British offices, in central London, with European flag, right, and Britain's Union flag, Tuesday June 21, 2016. Photo: Lauren Hurley / Associated Pres

Retention

In Thailand, people often believe there can only be one notion of national interest. And if you disagree with this commonly held belief of what constitutes national interest, then you are against it. The current military dictatorship, known as the National Council for Peace and Order, claims to be protecting “national interest” while trying to maintain hegemony on what it is perceived to be.

The recently concluded Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, where the 51.9 percent who voted to leave prevailed over the 48.1 percent who wanted to remain, showed that people can have different opinions on what constitutes their best national interest. A look at the backgrounds of the Brexiters who wanted to divorce the European Union and how they rationalized what constituted national interest is quite telling.

Pravit RojanaphrukWhite right-wing nationalists, xenophobes and even neo-Nazis want “England for the English,” despite the fact that many are mongrels with DNA from the Romans, Vikings, Saxons and elsewhere mixing over the millennia. Their national interest is breaking free from any supra-national control from Brussels in order to avoid accepting more foreign refugees. (It’s ironic that Neo-Nazism is not British but German in origin.)

There are also those Eurosceptics who voted to break the union because they’re poor, little-educated Britons facing unemployment threats as they have to compete against the influx of migrant workers from the former Eastern Europe, namely Romanians and Polish, and more, example.

Some leftists on the other hand voted to leave as well, not because they are xenophobic, but because they want Britain to have more a democratic, direct control of what’s going on. They might see the E.U. as representing the rich capitalist class. (Never mind if this eventually means Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain, and Northern Ireland, where 55.7 percent voted to stay, may eventually leave the U.K. to rejoin the E.U. in future referendums.)

On the other hand, younger and more urbane Britons feels more European. In London, which is one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth, some 60 per cent backed British membership of the E.U., thinking that Britain is far better off remaining with the union despite the common costs it has to shoulder. As many as 75 per cent of voters age 18 to 25 chose to remain within the E.U. while 56 per cent of those age between 50 to 64 voted to leave. The older they get, such as those 65 and above, the more they desire to leave because they perceived national interest is their life savings and feel may be undermined by the monetary tributes made to Brussels and cost of shouldering migrants and refugees.

Considering Europe’s self-destruction during the First and the Second World Wars, the seeming exorbitant ‘membership fees’ charged by the Eurocrats in Brussels and MPs in Strasbourg amount to nothing more than a loose change when it effectively prevents Europe from hosting the third world war. This doesn’t meant the E.U. doesn’t need a major reform, however.

Back in Thailand, thanks to decades of compulsory education stressing multiple-choice examination question, many still believe there can only be one right answer, however.

On Tuesday, this writer heard a middle-aged woman with the Asia Foundation lament at a symposium on the junta-sponsored charter draft that she’s not sure what’s happening when listening to the guest speakers.

If comparing Thailand to a patient being examined by a medical doctor for treatment, she said it’s unclear if the people were talking about the same patient when talking about what’s wrong with Thailand. The woman added she also wonders if it’s the same doctor making the diagnosis and offering prescription and treatment.

I don’t see why people should have difficulty understanding why we may not agree on what is wrong with Thailand and how to handle the prolonged political crisis.

Is it a different patient (nation) we are referring to? Why not, when people may perceive the situation differently? Are there two medical doctors offering different diagnoses and treatments? That’s understandable.

I told the woman if there are indeed two different doctors, the problem is that one of them (read: the junta) holds a gun and is telling the other doctor to simply keep quiet.