Editorial: July 2006
There appear to be causes in life which one supports, at times even lead, and there are others which one brushes aside, and at times eschew. Mention corruption, human trafficking, women’s and children’s rights, incorrect spelling of Chiang Mai, paedophilia, education, nepotism, hill tribes, the Middle East, Thaksin, capital punishment and racism to me and I will rise, passionately, to debate, defend or defame. But there are a million other worthy issues out there which, for me, are lower on the priority scale. And while these issues may engender an opinion – I am, you may have noticed, not terribly short of them – they don’t enjoy the full brunt of my passion. Thankfully everyone works off a different scale, and that is how we, as humanity, manage to keep fighting on many fronts.
Of course there is no right or wrong; a person saving street dogs in Chiang Mai is not any less worthy than someone who sits on international committees affecting global change. Shakespeare got it right; we all have a role on this world stage.
That having been said, one can become almost immune to certain atrocities and causes. The media walks a fine line bringing topics to the fore and maintaining our fickle interest while at the same time avoiding over exposure and ennui. I am the first to admit that I sometimes flick to another channel when the BBC reports on yet another bomb in Iraq. While I feel guilt, albeit passing, I simply can’t bring myself to watch. The horror! The horror! We may pontificate and preen with indignation over certain injustices, but for most of us, these passionate rants are just guilt appeasers.
One issue which I am ashamed to admit to having sorely neglected is the problems in the South. I don’t find comfort in the fact that most Thai people I know share my apathy. There is a chauvinism in Thailand to which few admit. We wept at the vision of one million subjects of the realm, faces smeared with joy, waving flags in celebration of His Majesty the King’s 60th year on the throne. We talked of national love and unity, of coming together as one under the umbrella of our King. But let’s admit it, we’re not united. We love our father, but like rival siblings, we’re failing to live together, to understand each other and to respect one another.
We Thais are not known for our cultural sensitivities. Racist jokes are rife (you’ve all heard about the one with the Indian and the cobra), hill tribes are still struggling to gain, and in some cases maintain, citizenship and during the past few months we have managed to piss off both Cambodia and Laos through derogatory portrayals in our cinemas, but what is probably most unforgivable of all is our collective attitude towards the ongoing violence in the South. Yellow Buddhist flags flitter and fly next to the national flag throughout the Kingdom, a beautiful sight. But at a time when Muslims in Pattani, Yala and Naratiwat are struggling to find a way to have their voices heard, to create peace and maintain pride, to find a solution for governance as well as accommodating the minority Buddhist residents and to simply survive, are we not being a tad insensitive? Dare I say, even arrogant?
There is a great lack of empathy towards our southern brothers and sisters. Like watching the bombings in Iraq, many of us simply can’t relate. “The south is like another country,” said a friend recently, “They’re not really Thai”. I’ve always wondered if Sukhotai, Ayutthaya and NakornSawan were up in flames like the South, would we care more. Sure we would.
As HM the King spent decades helping the cause of northern hill tribes, bringing them closer into the fold of Thailand, so has HM the Queen with the Muslim-majority South. Their Majesties consider US all their subjects. While Thailand’s population is mainly Buddhist, we can’t ignore the fact that other religions and ethnicities are also represented. They are just as Thai as we are. The fact that our own countrymen are going through virtual war on our home turf should illicit a much more immediate and serious response from both the government and population as a whole. I am as guilty as the rest of US who flip the newspaper to another page when reading of yet another beheading/bomb/skirmish. It’s time that I reprioritise. Perhaps it’s time that we all reprioritise.
Citylife this month:
It is a wonderful thing having a deputy editor! I have had a quasi-holiday the past month and a half as poor James has been slaving away filling Citylife’spages. Not that he has been complaining…bless. So off he went to spend a surreal night with some mates at the Adventure Hotel, rubbing shoulders with the whacky and wired at SuanPrung hospital, picking up pretty girls and sweatily cycling them around town on his samlor and interviewing debauched personalities. For those who are heading off for the summer school holidays, here is an article on the Maldives which will have you ATMing the last baht from your bank to pay for. And rounding up this month’s articles is Isabella Badenoch’s article on Ban Rom Sai, a guesthouse with a heart.
Keep dry this July.