Breaking the vicious cycle of violen
BARBARITY IN POLITICS
The scenes on TV recently, showing members of a pro-government groupbeating the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy with flag poles and other weapons while stomping on those unconscious on the ground, take me back to Oct 6, 1976.
That barbarian act committed 32 years ago not only ruined democracy in Thailand but struck deep at the very fibre of Thai society’s morality.
If we allow this kind of barbarity, which has been broadcast around the world, to lapse without the perpetrators being called to justice, Thai society will have to repay the karma by being stuck in a vicious cycle of violence without end.
So far no one has been arrested in con nection with the Oct 6 crimes.
Since then we have been through a few other atrocious incidents — the May 1992 uprising the killing of more than 2,000 people during the anti-drugs campaign, the physical assau on striking workers, the use of thugs to bre’ up protests against big projects, either y the government itself or by the private s not to mention the infamous Krue Se siege and Tak Bai deaths.
Are we, and our children, forever destined to live in a society where violence always lurks in the background?
What is the use of discussing political regimes — fully-fledged democracy, half- baked democracy, dictatorship, old politics or new politics? All these forms of governance will be rendered meaningless if we are all deprived of freedom because we’d never knowwhatwewndo without violent reprisal
After the attack on members of the PADin Udon Thani, former interior minister Chalerm Yubamrung said in an interview:
“The PAD’s recent activities upcountry had upset government supporters as their beloved politicians, especially Thaksin Shina watra, were ‘unfairly’ criticised with de rogatory words.”
So what? Do “derogatory words” justify the right to resort to violence? Does their use automatically cancel out the tights ac cording to the constitution?
Samart Kaewmeechai, chief government whip, was more blunt. “They can preach anything on Ratchadamnoen — no one would do anything to oppose it. But if they spread around to outer areas, they should beware of a backlash.”
Does this mean Bangkok and other prov inces are governed by a different charter?
Notably, this kind of freedom and human rights violation has always led to brutality. It is the prelude to a vicious cycle of violencewhich has hurt Thai society through the past 32 years.
If the other side decides to counter-attack with force, that cycle will move even faster and lead to a major clash and a bloodbath before long. Thus, the fact that PAD leaders have asked their supporters not to hold any gatherings in the provinces during this period, can be considered helpful to Thai society. it is part of an effort to break away from the cycle of violence.
Of course, that is hardly enough. If pol iticians in the government camp still view the use of violence to crack down on their opponents as being justified, then they can’t be trusted to lead us away from this detri mental trap. In the end, if we are to rid ourselves of the use of brute force as a means to settle conflicts in our society, then each and every one of us will have to take the task into our hands and help out in every possible way. We can start by putting all kinds of pressure on the authorities to bring perpetrators of the violence in Udon Thani to account. This means every single one involved in the barbaric act, not just the leaders. There is ample video footage of the melee, which should be of help. If state authorities are found to be negligent, they must be dealt with strictly.
This is not Operation Revenge. This must be done so as to assure society that conflict resolution must be done within the limits of the law. Using violence to suppress other people’s liberty is not acceptable. It is a grave matter which the authorities must not be allowed to ignore.
Members of the Opposition can help either by questioning the government or investi gating the incident themselves and reportI back to the public. Academics should con denm the crime. Everyone should do any thing they can to send the message that acts of violence, whether committed by the government or by private citizens, is an abominable act that will not lead to any solution or anything good. We have to con demn the attack whether or not we agree with the PAD, because such violence tramples on the rights and freedoms of every single Thai citizen.
If the “Sanam Luang” group wishes to protest against coups and dictatorship, it should join a campaign against the use of violence as well—because the use of violence is, in essence, a form of coup d’etat, only it is not marshalled by the army. But the result, however, is the same in that people’s rights and liberties become suspended, if not by tanks then by wooden sticks and iron bars.
If Thai society can let the law prevail over this conifict, then we will begin to pave a way that can lead us all out of this vicious cycle of violence that has permeated our society for 32 years. Professor Nidhi Eoseewong is an historian who started the alternative educational forum, the Midnight University