To say Thailand is a kingdom in crisis is an understatement. But the crisis that defines our social inequality is this: the moral crisis.
We can’t differentiate between right and wrong. We can only distinguish between them and us.
For conservative Thais, three things in life they are sure of:
- The king can do no wrong.
- “Poo-yai” (the elders, the social superior) can do no wrong.
- Young people can do no right. (After all, they and the poor people, plus the provincials, are the “poo-noi,” or the social inferior.)
Poo-yai is Thai for “big person,” in literal translation. And Poo-noi is “little person.”
At Saturday’s Bad Student rally, 20-year-old Nalinrat Tuthubthim put on a school uniform, duct-taped her mouth, and held a sign that said, “A teacher sexually assaulted me. The school is not a safe space.”
Her photos went viral.
Twitter exploded with cries of injustice and condemnations of Thailand’s patriarchal culture. Sexual harassment, abuse, and exploitation have long been a problem in Thailand, especially against minors.
On the other side of the political divide, however, a cry also went out. They said she’s a fake student. They ducked up her Instagram photos showing her in revealing cosplay costumes and questioned her morals. They called her whore and slut. They also asked why she never went to the police.
All of which means one or two things. To the conservatives, she’s lying, or she deserves it.
Travel back in time to Thursday, when Ratsadon rallied in front of the Royal Thai Police headquarters. They splashed paints at the fences and drew graffitis on the streets.
Again, the conservatives were up in arms.
Look at these kids! How crude! How rude! How inappropriate!
But on the day before, the police fired water cannons laced with chemicals and tear gas at protestors. The protestors intended to camp out in front of Parliament House and eat “mhoo kata” (pan-grilled pork) as a symbolic protest to pressure the politicians to motion through constitutional amendments.
The conservatives’ cry was the police didn’t do enough.
Even when five people were shot with live bullets and small children had to be hospitalized. Still, the conservatives shrug.
Are they morally-corrupted?
We have to understand the Thai definition of moral.
Moral values are a set of principles. They guide us to evaluate what is right or wrong. They help shape the character and personality of individuals. For example, a universal moral value is: peace is right, violence is wrong. But not all society adheres to this.
In Thailand, violence is the right thing to do against the Ratsadon protestors. Why? Because they attempt to change Thailand. In this change, they want to reform the monarchy institution. The monarchy is the most sacred institution in the land. It upholds Thailand’s social hierarchy. The king is the Father of Land.
Poo-yai runs the show to maintain the social order. The social expectation is complete obedience from young people.
“Good children listen to poo-yai,” as the saying goes.
What then are bad children?
Those who do not listen. What do we do to bad children? We punish them.
When your moral value is set against the mantra of submission and obedience, then society defines goodness as such.
Therefore, no matter how abusive, undemocratic, incompetent, and exploitative, the Prayut Chan-o-cha Regime is good, and the general is a good person. Why? Because the regime submits to and obeys the Father. Those who support the government are also good people because they submit, obey, and uphold the hierarchy.
It follows then that the protestors in the streets are called ungrateful traitors and nation-haters.
Why? Because they refuse to submit and obey.
Instead, they rebel.
Therefore, if they suffered from sexual abuse, they are lying, or they deserve it.
Water cannons laced with chemicals? Tear gas? Bullets, rubber or live? Article 110, crimes of violence against the queen and the heir apparent, with up to life imprisonment? Article 112, crimes of insulting and defaming the royal family, with up to 15 years imprisonment? Article 116, sedition, with up to seven years imprisonment.
Of course, they deserve it because they are bad children.
But when in 2013 to 2014, the People’s Democratic Alliance Committee (PDRC) inflicted chaos, violence, and destruction? It’s okay. It was neither rude, crude, inappropriate, or aggressive. In fact, it was a rather good thing.
Why? Because they were good people defending the inequality of Thailand’s social hierarchy.
Hence, the nauseating perpetuation of poo-yai versus poo-noi.