By Frank G. Anderson
Column: Thai Traditions
Published: August 08, 2008
There is no need for surprise. U.S. President George W. Bush’s visit to
Although this writer placed a call to the White House press secretary to ask the president if he planned to speak about the right of free assembly, not in
Bush’s speech delivered in
Bush may have overlooked most of
Considering the Samak government’s continual efforts at amending the charter to limit rights of expression and assembly, to overturn earlier high court verdicts against the Thai Rak Thai party and its 111 executive members, to totally ignore important subjects like recent multiple Cabinet changes and upcountry pro-government mob violence against pro-democracy groups, and instead, on the prime minister’s regular Sunday morning talk to speak about nuances of the Thai language and how wonderful a certain style of cooking is, well … we wonder what restoration of democracy means to Bush. He must have been talking about the junta giving back administrative power to the Thaksin-nominee government Samak heads.
This coming weekend, Aug. 8, 9 and 10, some real work on democracy is being done in Thailand’s northeast province of Kalasin, located about 520 kilometers from Bangkok. There
Even ten years ago in an interview this activist indicated that dealing with the Thai government through legal processes was ineffective, and that the only way to make a statement and gain action was to march. It’s not reassuring that so little faith was put into the country’s judicial process, but generally local lords’ intimidation, coercion and killings have created enough lessons for those considering speaking out.
But with the People’s
The event this weekend organized by Amnesty International and local villagers at Khun Bamrung’s home will act as another catalyst, it is hoped, in renewing faith and encouraging more active participation with other like-minded people and groups. Raising political consciousness and willingness to organize at local levels for political strength was once an alien concept for most Thais; for some it still is.
There is a drumbeat that unity and agreement are more important than substance and rights, a drumbeat played daily by
The challenges that Amnesty International and northeast Thai community leaders and residents alike face may be seen in an old incident during this writer’s former Peace Corps years in the northeast
In fact it is probably weaknesses within, across the board, that prohibit a faster and more widespread growth of democracy and rights awareness in the region. Individual values in civics and ethics are often misplaced at best, and inculcating straightforward values of honesty, openness and commitment to community projects will remain a challenge for some time to come.
(Frank G. Anderson is the