Social media is triggered by… let’s call him, Mr. Exception.
Mr. Exception is known to support military coups and dictatorships. But over the past week, he has been posting sympathetic messages about rights, liberty and equality in support of #blacklivesmatter and George Floyd.
Social media went nuts on Mr. Exception.
Why speak out on injustice in the United States, but not in your own country?
Was what happened to Floyd the same as what happened to Wanchalearm Satsaksit, the Thai political refugee in Phnom Phen, who last Thursday was abducted by gunmen?
The answer is no and yes.
Different countries. Different contexts. Different circumstances. Different in so many ways.
But the theme of injustice, in which those in power victimize the people, is all the same in every society. In fact, it’s a tale as old as time.
Regardless of what Floyd had done prior to his encounter with the police, or what Wanchalearm had done to become a refugee, murder is an abuse of human rights, and so is abduction.
Due process of law is the standard for human rights.
So why does Mr. Exception cry for Floyd, while ignoring Wanchalearm? In fact, Mr. Exception rejoices at what happened to Wanchalearm.
The answer is simply this:
Thailand is special and unique, unlike every other country.
Exceptionalism is the belief that a species, country, society, institution, movement, individual or time period is “exceptional”. Not just different from others, but even superior to others.
That which separates “us” from everyone else.
That which nurtures the tribal mentality of “us versus them”.
That which leads to racism and nationalism.
Exceptionalism doesn’t just exist in Thailand, but in every country and society.
(As a side note, there might be someone who says, “This doesn’t exist in my country.” Well, by saying that, you are saying your country is an exception.)
These are the beliefs that form the foundation of the Thai exceptionalism:
This holy land is protected by Phra Siam Devadhiraj, our guardian angel. This blessed land is ruled great kings, who are our fathers, and we are the children. In this sacred land, peace and harmony is ensured by complete adherence to cultural tradition and social hierarchy.
Submission is our national identity. Obedience is our national character.
Evidence to prove the greatness of Thai exceptionalism? Ask Mr. Exception, and this is what he would say:
Never been colonized. Wasn’t toppled by communism. Not inflicted by great disasters. Will soon declare victory over COVID-19.
Mr. Exception is well educated, in the sense of having fancy degrees.
He travels the world and has a white collar job. He loves Barack Obama. He hates Donald Trump.
Mr. Exception despises fascism and racism, while championing rights, liberty and equality… but for America and other countries, not for Thailand. Here, Thai exceptionalism takes precedence.
What happened to Floyd is a gross injustice, Mr. Exception would say, because rights, liberty and equality is the standard for over there.
What happened to Wanchalearm, on the other hand? Well, Mr. Exception would say, rights, liberty and equality is not the standard for over here.
Submission and obedience is.
Wanchalearm is a vocal critic of the government that stands for cultural tradition and social hierarchy. Worse still, Wanchalearm has been accused of lese majeste violations.
To Mr. Exception, the crime isn’t the abduction of Wanchalearm. The crime is Wanchalearm upsetting cultural tradition and social hierarchy. His refusal to submit and obey.
The same crime many Thais today are guilty of.
The crime that led to the branding, “nation-haters” (พวกชังชาติ).
Mr. Exception doesn’t judge Thailand by the standard that he judges the world.
Rights, liberty and equality are wonderful things, Mr. Elite would never say otherwise. But when measured up against cultural tradition and social hierarchy, they don’t stand a chance. These democrative values are for George Floyd and others, not for Thais.
One man, one vote? That’s for over there. Over here? 250 junta-selected senators. This is what’s right and good.
Rule of law and democratic process? That’s for over there. For over here? Coups and dictators. This is what’s right and good.
Rights, liberty and equality? No. Submission and obedience.
We are special and unique. We are exceptional.