Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to Bring Thaksin Home (and why he should return)

As I'm not a politician, my thought processes are not that subtle.  I'd like to propose a very simple solution to the huge dilemma that Thailand is in right now.   A lot of very complex solutions are being considered right now, most of which involve moving millions of people around a congested city, impeaching half the government, or shooting people.  But there are much easier ways to handle our problems.

The first problem which seems to afflict about half the country is, "How can we bring Thaksin home?"

Well, duh, he buys a plane ticket.  Huh?  I thought he was banned from the country.  No, he is not not "in exile" as the foreign press is so fond of saying, excising the word "self-imposed" in the interests of dumbing itself down for the sound-bite-conditioned audience.

You see, some key words are also missing from the question posed above.  They are the words "without going to jail."

Is jail so terrible?  Would Thaksin really spend more than a token amount of time in prison before receiving some kind of pardon?

The point is that being willing to spend even one day in jail would go a long way toward rehabilitating this man's claim to "statesmanship."

I can hear him grinding his teeth right now.  "Why should I spend a day in jail for being caught with my hand in the cookie jar?  Look at all the hands that are still reaching into that jar."

There are two answers to that.  First, just because everyone else is doing it doesn't make it right.  And second, you shouldn't have tried to take all the cookies.

Spending even a token amount of time in jail would convince many people that your party was serious about fighting corruption.  When P.M. Yingluck stated the other day that this was a primary goal of her party, it was widely seen as a joke.  Your willingness to go to jail would be an amazingly statesmanlike gesture.  It would be as if someone had opened up the dusty cave of political corruption and finally let in the first rays of sunlight.

Thaksin coming home and taking his lumps would remove all sorts of obstacles in Thailand's journey towards a better democracy.  His party would no longer need to gyrate, manipulate and deceive with bogus amnesty laws, and we can get on to real amnesty.

Real amnesty will only occur after real transparency.  Which means that there needs to be an honest, public display of mea culpa from everyone who has betrayed the trust of the Thai people for the last several years.

Which means people would have to realize that it is okay to lose face.  Indeed, if you lose a little face now, you can gain a lot more later.

It means that the people who seized the airport have to come clean and admit that they crossed the line from acceptable dissidence to hooliganism.

It means that those who shouted slogans about burning down the city will have to admit that they, too, crossed the line of civilized, democratic discourse.

It means that the military will have to admit that, well-intentioned though their takeover might have been, they completely blew the aftermath, and made things worse.

It means that those who hold a majority in parliament must admit that there are constitutional limits to their power and that a system of checks and balance is supposed to be in place.

Amnesty is forgiveness.  You can't be forgiven if you don't admit you've done anything wrong ... or worse, if you don't even think you've done anything wrong because you think that your rights are more important than everyone else's rights.

So that is my solution.  As I don't have the subtle mind of a politician, I know it won't work, but I propose it nonetheless:

Mr. Thaksin, buy a plane ticket, come back to this country from which you were never exiled, and accept the rule of law.

Once people see that even you are able to do this, things will start to fall into place.  I believe that others, too, from both sides of the divide, will start to put their country ahead of their own interests.  You won't smell like a rose right away, you understand.  I mean, there's the little matter of the extrajudicial killing of a few thousand alleged drug lords, the inhumane treatment of the Muslim community, the manipulation of legal loopholes in order to terrorize our once-free press, and what else?  Oh yeah, corruption.  But you would be surprised at how much people are willing to forgive, if you only show a little shred of remorse.

Even though I'm not getting a million bucks a month for this advice, unlike a certain PR firm in the U.S., I believe it is the best advice you will ever receive.

If you try this advice and it happens to work, of course, I'd be glad to accept the fees you're paying the other guy.

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