Twists and turns of Thai politicking
After weeks of political dramas, cheating, rotating fortunetellers, Thaksin flying home, media whisperers and the revoking and reinstatement of upmarket condo project Ashton Asoke, we will soon get our new Prime Minister.
However, Pita Limcharoenrat is not the choice, pushed aside by litigation in the Constitution Court and the newly demolished eight-party coalition. We have even seen a member of Move Forward, Piyabutr Sangkanokkul, abruptly changing gears and saying there is no reason to be remorseful or feel bad. That remark made me furious and sorry for the party’s followers that a conciliatory comment could so easily relinquish their ultimate goals despite having insisted on changing the course of politics.
So far, there is nothing that can be qualified as the truth other than the melodrama of the powers that be! Rumours dominate the halls of the shame and blame game. The return of Thaksin Shinawatra on August 10 was announced by his younger daughter, Paethongtan in the middle of the uncertainty about the formation of our new government. Yet many are still unsure of Thaksin's itinerary. Would he wait until the Pheu Thai party wins the required seats in the cabinet and its candidate Srettha Thavisin’ is confirmed as the next Prime Minister?
Why this is so important? Is it a matter of life and death? Will he be accorded full respect by not being sent to jail or prison on day one of his return?
Most media as well as those involved with the inner circle seem to think that the political scenarios we are now seeing were likely set up by negotiators on both sides quite some time ago. I even heard those rumours 3 or 4 years ago during the Covid 19 pandemic. At first, I merely thought people were not very busy and had more time to gossip while working from home, so these snippets of chit-chat and red herrings could be counted as merely assumptions or speculation. Yet the recent presumptuous comments and remarks made about the inner circles come close to everything I had heard before
This means that the negotiations between the powers-that-be on both sides were proceeding all along and the likely cabinet members had been unofficially chosen. That is one of the reasons why I recently wrote an article in Thai titled “Please do not relinquish your lives for the power seekers”.
I have never forgotten the images, the sound of gunfire and the ambulances around Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital in 2010. I had to wear a helmet every time I travelled to my office in the university not because I was riding on a motorcycle but because I was afraid of being shot by any of the live bullets floating around the area.
I wonder if people should die or be killed because of their innocence and because they were being lured by their political idols to protect their beloved democracy. Several years ago, I watched an international documentary about the massacre at Thammasart University on October 6, 1976. The film portrayed graphic images of students and people burnt alive and nailed down or hanging from the tamarind tree being beaten with a chair or stool. I discovered that one of the students whose image has become a symbol of human cruelty and hatred was Wichichai Amornkul, a political science student at Chulalongkorn University. He was my senior alumnus and passed away on the day of the killing spree.
The documentary also interviewed Wichitchai’s mother who said she would still prepare a small bowl of rice and some meat for her lost son every time she eats. Unfortunately, no one cared about her suffering, and many friends of her son gradually disappeared one by one, with none of them visiting her since. This is a real story and should serve as a lesson to supporters on both sides to realise what is really happening and what should they do about it.
The twist and turns of the political players reflect the ideas that ordinary people can be used as bait or tactical gambits for the powers’ that be own benefit and survival. The wrangling that goes on in denying or insisting on one’s innocence is sometimes very similar to deceitful business strategies and political melodrama. It is a reflection of the Dunning –Kruger Effect (the less we know, the more confident we are) as well as Charles Darwin’s famous words, “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge” (The Descent of Man, 1871). This statement is a satire about people who are confident of what they do not really know, but believe or are confident that they know it well. In other words, the more you are confident in what you believe, the greater the chance it will backfire on you and make you look more stupid because you really know nothing about it!
Amorn Wanichwiwatana, DPhil (Oxon), is a former member of the Constitution Drafting Commission and a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University.