Thailand’s love affair with extrajudicial killing

The words “extrajudicial killing” often appear in news headlines, and we, the people, shrug, “Mai pen rai.” In other words, we are fine with it.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s 2003 “War on Drugs” greenlit the extrajudicial killing of suspected drug dealers. According to Human Rights Watch, “some 2,800” people were killed, and we, the people, applauded.

However, over the past two days, we, the people, are furious over police officers’ extortion and accidental killing of a suspected drug dealer.

What has changed?

Extrajudicial killing is fine, but adding extortion (corruption), and that’s one step too far?

The fabulous wealth of Police Colonel Thitisant Utanapol (Superintendent Joe) offense our sensibilities too much?

Or has the actual witnessing of murder on video woke up our humanity?

A government is a reflection of the people. General Prayut Chan-o-cha has been in charge for seven years because too many of us prefer the military-inspired rule of the Prayut Regime.

In the 2014 military coup, we told the general that robbery at gunpoint is okay. In the 2019 national election, 8,433,137 million of us held the same value and did not bat an eye over the 250 senators and fractional MPs.

Official practices are a reflection of social values. Extrajudicial killing has been a norm because, other than a handful of human rights activists, we, the people, react with “Mai pen rai.”

But we study the past to understand rather than to blame.

If we, the people, have woken up, then that’s a good thing. If the past year and a half of cultural awakening have put human rights at the forefront of our national conscience, then that’s a good thing.

If in the future, near or far, we, the people, want government practices to reflect the social value of human rights, then this is the concept that society must first embrace:

No matter who you are or what you have allegedly done, everyone deserves the right of “innocent before proven guilty by the court of law, the court that practices law on the principles of human rights.”

That includes Superintendent Joe and the other police officers involved.

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