I've read certain on-line rants of K Mallika Boonmeetrakul - sent as public messages, as well as seen one of her recent television interviews. What we seem to have is our own homegrown Sarah Palin/Michelle Bachmann type ... but an infinitely more dangerous one because her statements undermine her own party's view of itself as the party of intelligent, liberal-minded and forward-thinking people, and insofar as her tweets appear to come from a party spokesperson and not be clearly marked as her personal opinion, they give an extremely embarrassing impression of our country to the international community.
On her television interview she suggested that our country should become like China, and ban facebook and youtube. I wonder if she remembers the last time Thailand tried to ban youtube, and how it backfired and got mud all over this country's face. The idea that China is somehow a golden model to be followed on this issue is an abomination. It is only one step from banning youtube to putting people like me behind bars, like the Chinese did to Ai Weiwei and countless others. If K Mallika thinks we should become like China in that regard, she should move there.
Thailand has, by and large, been an open society since the 1973 student protests — something which has NEVER been true of China. There have been numerous attempts to turn the clock back, but no one has yet found a way to reverse the flow of time for long. They can only delay the inevitable for a time. The most recent assault on our freedoms began in earnest in the Thaksin administration and under the guise of law, but subsequent governments have not improved the situation.
K Mallika's public tweets are not the harmless ravings of a lunatic precisely because they have the appearance of being endorsed by the democratic party. They are extremely harmful. The foul language that she has used in public tweets to address some of the more thoughtful members of the red brigade do nothing to help the democrats and everything to reinforce the conventional wisdom that the democrats are dismissive and elitist.
Today, I sent a note to K. Abhisit, the former prime minister and leader of the opposition. I would like to quote some excerpts from this letter.
"All the intelligent supporters of the democratic party are going to leave in droves if this woman Mallika continues to spout her nonsense on twitter - on an account that clearly bears the democratic party's name and which everyone assumes to be the mouthpiece of the democratic party. Many already have. You must not underestimate the damage she has already done. ... The sorts of people who are leaving are precisely the sorts of people you most want to have as supporters ...
"PLEASE come out with some kind of semi-official dissociation from her statements or any hope of the democratic party being viewed as a beacon of hope, liberalism and intelligence is doomed. Everything you have worked for is going to be shit. We all want to restore this country's international image and this woman is going to reduce this country's credibility further. Better still, you should publicly and clearly fire her."
The opposition leader sent me a response that suggests something will be done about the Mallika problem, but a statement which came out just now from the party spokesperson doesn't really go quite far enough. Probably the very best thing K Mallika could do if she genuinely loves her party, and genuinely cares about the reputation of this country, is to apologise publicly, take responsibility, and graceful step down from her post.
This isn't really about the democratic party's reptutation. It's about the way this country is perceived and the way it perceives itself. K Mallika is a young woman who could use some time off to think and reflect about what she has unleashed. She has plenty of time in her life to grow and learn and become a valued player in our political system, but that time is not now.