|  May 4, 2009

In so many ways, Thais are all fighting for, or being frustrated about, the same things – equality between the rich and poor, corruption, rule of law and transparency: the yellows at the overwhelming corruption and lack of transparency during the Thaksin era and the reds at the lack of equality in government policies towards the poor in comparison to the rich and even-handedness of the rule of law since the coup. And both parties are fighting under the same banner: democracy. Both claim loyalty to the monarchy, both claim that their end goal is democracy (though interpretations of this pretty straight forward word vary from man to man) and both feel that legal means of achieving their goals are tempered by the money- or elite-power, leading them to justify use of force or other non legal means.

The yellows started the ball rolling with their occupation of government house and set standards for breaking the rule of law by storming Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang Airports. The reds, who denounced such illegal and extreme behaviour, then ironically went on to use violence and cause chaos in Bangkok and Pattaya. So much in common!

The rest of Thailand – who have to carefully go through our wardrobes each morning for fear of making an inadvertent political statement – can only shake our heads as our businesses suffer, our stress levels sky rocket and our country is torn apart.

What lessons can we all learn from the brouhaha of the past few years?

Firstly, those voted to power do not have a mandate to rule if they do not follow the rule of law. Secondly, politicians must work for the benefit of the entire society and not only for those who voted for them. Thirdly, the fourth estate, media, must remain free from all political interference. Fourthly, the army must act for the good of the country and not for any one politician or party and must resist their itchy urges to stage coups. Fifthly, peaceful protests are the only kind acceptable and damage to property, people and business are not tolerated, and lastly we must remind ourselves that our common goal is pretty much the same – we all wish for a democratic country where every man and woman is fully informed and not incentivised financially to vote.

No one is above the law. No one. That should be the bottom line. And the solution? Again and again the solution to so many of Thailand’s problems is education. The government must step up education reform, teach children to think for themselves, outside the box and to look at matters from different views and listen and learn from more than one source. If people are fully informed, and well educated, then corruption would not be tolerated, money politics will become less common, media bias will be revealed for what it is, and government propaganda taken with a pinch of salt.

There is much talk of revenge these days: (some of) the yellows want revenge for the attempted assasination of Sondhi Limthongkul, (some of) the reds want revenge for Thaksin Shinawatra’s woes. Thailand can not afford such thinking. Both sides were right and both sides were wrong and both sides should start listening to each other’s grievances and adjusting their views accordingly. Hold debates on national television, radio, even community radio. Invite opposition parties to debate and discuss issues so that viewers and listeners can calmly absorb different viewpoints and opinions and forget Amazing Thailand, or other such campaigns. Launch a nationwide We Are Thai campaign for unity and reconciliation.

Change. We can do it. We are a resilient people and the majority of us simply want peace and prosperity. I do hope that politicians listen because one thing that is being voiced loud and clear from both sides is that the people will NOT tolerate shenanigans by politicians anymore. No more corruption, no more vote buying, no more double standards…never more. If they hear this message and take it to heart we would all be the better for it.
Obama and his message for change has invigorated the American people, even in these doldrums times, Thailand too should get excited about some big changes. Here is to the return of the land of smiles. For all.

Citylife this month:
With all the depressing goings on recently concerning politics and economy, we thought we would bring you a fun and light-hearted magazine this month with a focus on partying. So, for the first time ever, Citylife is presenting Chiang Mai with its very own board game – the Citylife Pub Crawl Challenge! We also interview owners of three of the most successful pubs in Chiang Mai to find their mix for success. More sobering stories include John Shaw’s look at the intertwined and parallel histories of Burma and Thailand.