A new malice is threatening Thailand. Those in fear call members of the new cult “nation-haters” or phuak chang chart in Thai.
This new threat was not espoused by anonymous political loonies, but led by former senior Democrat Party member Warong Dechgitvigrom, once a contender for the party’s top leadership. Warong recently defected to another party known for its hardline pro-establish stance, the Action Coalition for Thailand.
It wasn’t just an empty rhetoric, either. Warong and his supporters went as far as pushing for what he called a “anti-patriotism bill” to punish nation-haters.
But what is this supposed “cult” of nation-haters all about?
In essence, some conservative Thais feel that there are fellow Thais who hate their very own country and actively seek to harm it.
To these concerned individuals, the threat comes from within, from those who kept criticizing Thailand and wanting to see a change in Thai society. Full-disclosure, this writer has been accused on social media as a nation-hater as well.
Warong went into some details on Facebook earlier this month to explain what he and his supporters thought of nation-haters.
The veteran politician warned that those who call for democracy yet hate their own country “will only cause trouble.” As in Hong Kong, which is witnessing a protracted protest against Beijing’s rule, these nation-haters sow division in society and drag foreign powers to interfere in domestic political affairs, Warong said.
“Thailand is cultured and possesses beautiful traditions, love and generosity among its people that is an envy of foreigners. We must help look after these and not fall for the propaganda of those who hate their own nation and cited democracy as a pretext,” the 58-year-old Warong wrote.
He added, “Do not allow these nation-haters to be emboldened, and then everything in the country will be better.”
In another recent Facebook posting, the self-made prophet spells out the tenets of nation-haters, in which he referred to as believers in “anti-patriotism”. It includes five principles.
First, nation-haters are against the monarchy and often attack it.
Second, nation-haters do not promote religions.
Third, nation-haters dismiss its own cultures and traditions as archaic. They also look down on Thailand with disdain.
Fourth, nation-haters invite foreign powers to meddle in internal affairs and expose the country’s weaknesses to foreigners.
Fifth, nation-haters undermine confidence in the judicial system and do not accept the court’s rulings.
His description of nation-haters was widely reported by the press, shared nearly 700 times on Facebook, and met with over a thousand Facebook reactions.
It seems that in Warong’s ideal world, Thailand must be static and parochial – not dynamic and progressive or true to itself. To be a Warong’s patriot, one must accept the status quo and regard Thai culture as beyond reproach.
To be a patriot in Warong’s eyes, one must not speak the truth about Thailand’s ill to foreigners, no matter how ill Thai society may have become.
I concede that Warong loves Thailand, but he probably does so in a very myopic and monopolistic way.
I would not call Warong a true patriot, for one should be open-minded and tolerant to competing ideas about how best to love and move the country forward – which includes taking the views of others, including contradictory views into consideration in good faith.
No one should wield an authority on how best to love one’s motherland. It’s unfortunate that it may not have occurred to Warong that perhaps other Thais, even some foreigners, do care for Thailand as well, and as much as he does, but they may have a different plan for the future of the country and disagree on what is considered an ideal, or at least desired, Thailand.
Branding those who disagree with him as nation-haters is nothing but an attempt to monopolize patriotism, if not nationalism, by a group of increasingly insecure Old Guards who have lost the plot.
They can no longer maintain the narrative they want to impose on Thailand, particularly among the disillusioned youngsters who have become much more vocal on social media.
Dear Warong, I love Thailand, too. And just because we may have a different vision on how Thailand ought to be in the future is no excuse for you to brand people like myself as nation-hater.
My version of Thailand’s future happens to be more egalitarian, more transparent, democratic and free, and bereft of xenophobia.
Please abandon your fear and have a dialogue with those who think differently from you, for they are your countrymen as well.