Have a conversation with Thai traditionalists, and this is usually how it goes:
Ask if they believe in fairness and justice, the reply is yes, of course. Ask if it’s fair and just that the 250 junta-appointed senators have the privilege to elect the junta as the prime minister directly, the answer is no.
Appeal to them that a nation’s destiny cannot rest on an individual or a small group of people. That instead, the Thai nation’s foundation should be a fair and just system sustainable from generation to generation.
Reason with them that all 69 million Thais deserve the democratic governance of human rights, transparency, and accountability. After all, this is fair and just.
Explain to them that in a democratic system, the people have a fighting chance in the voting booth every four years. In between elections, we can protest and make demands. We can perform checks and balances to make sure that the politicians corrupt as little as possible, and work for our benefits as much as possible.
Be honest with them and admit that democracy is a highly flawed system. That often the powerful and greedy abuse and corrupt the system. But also remind the traditionalists that it is the best political system humankind has ever created because it provides the checks and balances on the government.
Help them to understand that unchecked power corrupts absolutely.
Cite them the historical facts that the Thai democracy never had time to develop from its infantile stage, because whenever we are unhappy about something, a military coup happens. It is not that democracy doesn’t work, but that we betray democracy and hence betray our fellow citizens’ human rights.
A lot, but not all, of the traditionalists, would agree in principles with these things. How can anyone not? When we lay the foundations of a discussion on the values of fairness and justice, this can be the only outcome.
However, follow it up with the question as to why then they believe the protestors are wrong in demanding the fair and just system of democracy. It takes a bit of prodding, but eventually, they would reply, “Well, Thaksin Shinawatra would win.”
Twenty years on and the ghost of Thaksin still haunts Thailand, and he’s not even dead.
But the conversation isn’t over yet. Ease their worries that it’s not about Thaksin. The law should charge the former prime minister with the crime against humanity because he authorized the war on drugs that led to the extrajudicial killing of, according to Amnesty International, over 2,000 civilians, without due process of law.
The traditionalists would feel some comfort to know that you are not a fan of Thaksin.
Follow that up by insisting on the traditionalists that we must learn from the past, but we can’t build the future based on individual personalities. Instead, it is a fair and just system that should be the foundation of Thai society.
Therefore, let’s have a fair and just system.
Did Palang Prachahrat Party not win over eight million popular votes in the last election, more so than any other party? Isn’t General Prayut Chan-o-cha so highly popular that fans flock to him wherever he travels in the provinces as if he’s a K-pop star?
So let’s have a fair contest in a just system, then? Hit delete on the 250 junta-appointed senators.
They would look left and right, roll their eyes, sigh deeply, and finally say, “Well, I just don’t believe in democracy.”
With that, they are truly honest because they know that in a fair and just system, the general would lose. Hence, they would lose.
That is why we have had two military coups in the past 16 years. That is why we have been under military dictatorships twice in the period, for some six years. That is why we had a national election rigged by a constitution designed to cheat.
Because in the warped mind of the traditionalists, fairness and justice are lovely in theory. In practice, they are only beautiful if the traditionalists win. However, if they lose, they would tear up fairness and justice and use them as toilet paper. They would pull out a gun and force everyone else to submit to their vision of what Thailand should be.
And yet, they call themselves “good people,” while branding the protestors demanding fairness and justice “nation haters.”
Dear traditionalists, those protestors never robbed Thailand or applaud the robbery of our country.