Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Immodest Proposals

Today I happened to read, in the paper, the petition signed by 3.5 million people asking H.M. the King to pardon Thaksin Shinawatra.

I'm a bit saddened by the text of this petition because it's not only a request for a pardon but also a political tract disputing the legitimacy of the current government. While I do agree that the coup was a misguided and ultimately self-destructive reaction to Thakin's shenanigans, the current government's hold on power, tenuous though it may be, is entirely constitutional and within the normal operating limits of a democracy. Almost every democracy in the world has had coalition governments such as this where no party possessed the ability to govern alone. "Almost" a majority is not a majority.

Had the petition simply been a heartfelt outpouring from those who love the ex-PM and weren't bothered by the tax evasion, pocket-lining, Muslim-bashing, extrajudicial killing and press muzzling that occurred during that administration, I would applaud the signatories' right to present it. After all, love is blind. It may well be true that such petitions should only legally be presented if the guilty party has served a little time and shows penitence, but in my opinion, anyone can write a letter to anyone else, even a head of state.

But the text of the petition isn't such a heartfelt outpouring. It''s a provocative attack on the legitimacy of a government whose democratic credentials are at least as strong as that of the pre-coup government, perhaps more so in that the last election may not have been quite so blatantly purchased as the one ousted by the coup. Therefore I'm saddened that those who may well have loved the ex-PM may have been manipulating into signing a political manifesto. In the end, this erodes the entire purpose of having an entity beyond politics.

Last year, I protested, and they removed, a Wikipedia entry that said I was an anti-Thaksinite. The reality is, I'm ambivalent. The man is clearly a genius, but genius does not automatically come with goodness. Otherwise the term "evil genius" would not be such a cliché of B movies.

Still, as much as I supported the yellow team's motives until they actually blatantly said that "the poor are too stupid to vote," I supported the right of the reds to petition ... until I saw that petition not only asked for a pardon, but also that that pardon include an implicit royal sanction of one view of the political situation. What was wrong with having it just say "Please pardon you-know-who?"

Well, I'd better shut up, or I'll find myself back to having only one passport ... (and it won't be the Nicaraguan one) I think that Purukanda's rap-style commentary on the Thai political situation says it all far better than I ever could. So look for it on youtube and I'll go back to talking about opera.

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