Heaven and Hell: Differences in opinion over democracy in Thailand
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Heaven and Hell: Differences in opinion over democracy in Thailand

An op-ed column in Matichon last week was entitled ฟ้ากับเหว (Sky [Heaven] and abyss [Hell]). Below is a summarized translation:

Privy Councillor Prem opened up his house to the Defence Minister and senior military figures. Some statements he made were:

“If we look at the country today, we can see that Thais are divided into different groups. In reality, if we look deeper than that then we are not divided.”

“We have differences of opinion, but if we do not have we are divided.”

“We can say that we think differently in a friendly way and will not cause any damage”

[Paraphrasing Prem] Some people think that differences of opinion are wrong. Such thinking is an obstacle to unity.

Also, during the New Year, former member of the 2006 coup group and now appointed Senator Gen Somjet also spoke. He said:

The elected ones like to refer to the election process as being democracy. If an election is good and helps the country make progress then there is no need for polls that show the people view politicians as being the most corrupt.”

“From elections, the people choose but still corruption. Therefore, it is not proof that coming from elections is the best.

Democracy that steals from the nation, I view it as worse than a military dictatorship

If you don’t know the difference between sky [heaven] and abyss [hell], then you should read and compare between what these two have said.

BP: Prem certainly is speaking to a different tune than when he wore his military uniform and gave his jockey speech in 2006 – see here and here – which was a precursor to the 2006 coup. The difference in tone between what Prem and Somjet are saying now is so great. Of course, we don’t know what Prem thinks privately, but he certainly has not been adverse to meeting Yingluck at his residence. He has not been making any public statements like he did before the 2006 coup. Now, he is downplaying divisions, calling them differences of opinion and implying such differences are normal or healthy.

This contrasts greatly with others who are in the pro-establishment camp who are not content with sitting quietly.* The comments by Gen. Somjet are a perfect illustration of this. On what Gen. Somjet says, there are differing definitions in political science circles on the exact definition of democracy, but without an election, you cannot have a democracy. Then again, he is an appointed Senator and is power is derived from the new constitution in the aftermath of the 2006 coup so that he is not a fan of elections should not be surprising…

* (and Postscript given the aftermath of the pulling of the Nua Mek lakorn (more in another post)). There is always this attempt to label people or things as “good” or “bad”. You are either in the “good” camp and virtuous or you are viewed as “bad” and corrupt. It is such a black and white distinction as if there is no grey.