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Promoting division suppresses debate, condemns us to repeat history

Dec 20. 2018
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Media have been warned against presenting hate-provoking news and false information as they may be used online to influence how people vote, according to Somsri Han-anantasuk of the Open Forum for Democracy Foundation.

For example, she said media should not report stories like the 2010 pro-Thaksin, red-shirt protest against the Abhisit government which led to arson attacks and a military crackdown in which, among others, six people died at Wat Pathum Wanaram.

But as the philosopher George Santayana pointed out, “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. Thais are very resistant to learning from history; we do after all hold the world record for coups d’etat. I fully agree that speakers must not intentionally provoke hate or false information, but until we understand what motivates the adherents of each side, seek to understand those who believe differently, and work together to achieve common goals, we will neither reconcile nor have sustainable peace. For example, what did the red shirts believe in when they sought to overthrow the Abhisit government? To what extent was that worldview factual? To what extent was the military crackdown justified? What can we learn from this tragic incident that will help us reconcile and work in unison?

How about a series of workshops, led by neutral academics, with participants from by all major groups of thought – including red, yellow and green shirts, and others? Each workshop would focus on one area of reform: education, military, economics, etc. They would study the root problems of each crisis and work out joint long-term sustainable solutions to present to the incoming government, loaning their leaders to implement their proposals.

If this sounds sensible, how would we create pressure on workshop participants to produce, not just argue and finger-point?

Burin Kantabutra

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