Thai Culture: Is Thailand’s State of Emergency being “Culturally Ingrained” into the Thai People?

Blog Note: Are Thais being ingrained culturally to live with a state of emergency condition?

What comes first, between an oppressed society or a perpetual state of emergency-in Thailand‘s case the answer does not matter.

The line between normal lives and lives under a state of emergency is being blurred on purpose-and both-an already oppressed normal society and an oppressed society under the emergency decree are merging together.

Example, yesterday, Thailand’s emergency enforcement unit banned the selling of all gods deemed divisional to the Thai society. Only as a few weeks before that the Thai culture ministry told the Thai police to arrest those selling slippers deemed “Immoral.”

Clearly, an attempt is being made by what many Thais now calls the Fascist government of Thailand, to in-grained into the Thai society-a culture of accepting the state of emergency and repression.

Thais are being told today, that repression is needed and normal under the state of emergency that is needed, and that a repressive society is needed to wade of the necessity of a state of emergency.

The danger is that the Thais-may become lost and imprinted with living under oppression-and never be able to appreciate “Normal” lives and “Freedom” ever again.

The following is from Global Voice:

A Facebook fan page was created by netizens who are criticizing the methods and policies of Thailand’s Ministry of Culture. The Ministry has been strict in its promotion and monitoring of authentic Thai culture in old and new media sites. As of this writing, the page has 2,857 fans.

The Facebook page was also a response to the exaggerated reaction of ministry officials to the discussion thread started by one of its staff workers on popular web portal Pantip. The intention of the staff was to solicit feedback from the people about the performance of the ministry. The web forum generated an interesting discussion, including constructive criticism about the work of the ministry. But ministry officials didn’t like the negative comments. It forced its own employee to reveal his identity and to issue a public apology.

Sampan Ruksa, the staff of the ministry who initiated the online thread, wrote an apology letter for his actions. He began by pointing out that he didn’t mean to cause disrespect to the ministry by starting a web discussion on Pantip since it is a popular and credible website

Pantip is a top tier, high quality Thai web board. The respondents on the web board are members of the site who must submit their national ID card number or show their IP address. Discussion on this web board is more polite than on other web boards.

Sampan apologized to his superiors and colleagues in the ministry

I, Mr. Samphan Ruksa, started discussion threads at the beginning of last month on the web boards of Pantip.com, Larn Dham Sewana, and MThai. I contacted the Larn Dham Sewana administrator at the beginning of last month to request the thread be deleted.

I believe that my actions have had no benefit to the Cultural Monitoring Office, and worse, have caused discouragement and unease to the staff members who work therein. I hereby accept that my actions were due to my ignorance, inexperience, foolishness, and an incomplete understanding of their work process. In addition, I acted without consulting my superiors, acted beyond my duties, without judgment, and inappropriately, by allowing the outside public to criticize the Office’s work too intrusively, to the point of criticizing specific individuals.

Thus, I, as the one who caused the damage, hereby take responsibility, admitting that my actions were unwitting. I apologize to each staff member of the Cultural Monitoring Office. I realize that the policies and the work of each staff member benefit our society and nation. They are determined and diligent, enduring difficulties and fatigue, and are very dedicated to their work. I am sorely grieved.

Kong Rithdee, in his Bangkok Post blog, lambasted the reactions of the ministry officials

The more the conservative wing of the ministry — which is the dominant wing — continues to display their pathetic inability to understand what’s going on outside their self-constructed cocoon of “morality” and “values”, the more they’re feeding the bonfire of frustration and radicalism. The more rabidly they want to censor, the more they’ll drive people to hatch underground vendetta — and the power of technology will be on their side.

Poor ministry. They still don’t get it that the most important culture is the culture of constructive criticism and free expression.

Commenting on the Facebook page, Natnaree Uriyapongson gives this advice

The Ministry of Culture should do something about the many prostitutes swarming our country instead of turning a blind eye and using it to “help and promote” our economy!!

In Thailand, citizens can call a hotline to complain about images, shows, and events which do not represent Thai culture. Thai Film Journal reports:

Call 1765. In Thailand that’s the number to dial if you see or hear anything that might be deemed inappropriate — beauty queens in non-Thai costume, nipple slips, offensive love songs or a film — anything you think hinders social development, the Nation and “fine Thai culture”.

Thailand’s “culture police force” is composed of 1.3 million volunteers from 4,825 networks across the country who monitor TV shows, websites, and media events that offend and harm Thai culture.

And also from Global Voice:

Political Prisoners in Thailand blog reports that, on May 24, 2010, Suthachai Yimprasert, a history professor at Chulalongkorn University, was ordered to report to the Center for the Resolution of Emergency Situations (CRES). Rather than being interrogated at the 11th Army Regiment, he was taken to an army base in Saraburi, and is being held for seven days. This is possible, without formal charges being made or evidence being presented under the Emergency Decree.

Few days later, on May 27, Thailand Crisis 2010 blog reports the statement of Suthachai’s lawyer after having visited him at Adisorn Military Camp, Saraburi, that the professor decides to go on hunger strike since the morning, to protest of not being allowed to read any newspaper, listen to the radio, watch the television, or follow the news in any way. Even his textbooks, which are needed for preparing lectures, are forbidden.

For a good humor, Matichon newspaper (online) report a response from Colonel Sarnsern Kaewkamnerd, CRES Spokeperson, that not eating any food would probably make Dr. Suthachai hungry. He also suggested that eating jelly should make him full, if the professor doesn’t want to eat food.

Suthachai is detained in a solitary unit. Every word in the conversation between Suthachai and his wife on visiting day is recorded by 5 soldiers who stand around the couple.

Many social activists and human rights defenders now fear that the Thailand government would continue extending the state of emergency decree for virtually forever — like Egypt, which has been in a state of emergency almost without interruption for more than 40 years.

To conclude the situation in Thailand right now, let me pick the opening phrase posted by Mr. Wrigley, juxtaposing actor Pongpat Wachirabunjong‘s famous speech, in his Siam Report blog*, :

“Clearly there is not room for any alternative opinions or ideas. You are either with us or against us as George W. Bush once said. You either accept the social, political, and economic framework that largely marginalizes you and benefits me, or get out!”

Following is a letter from Bonsong Chaisingkananont, Department of Philosophy, Silpakorn University, on behalf of friends and family of Suthachai Yimprasert.

27 May 2010

To whom it may concern (especially the human rights organizations),

This is urgent information regarding Dr. Suthachai Yimprasert, a historian professor who was arrested by the Thai authorities on May 24, 2010. Please help campaign for his release.

Professor Bayan, Dr. Suthachai’s wife, visited her husband at the Adisorn Army Camp in Saraburi earlier today. The army allows only his wife and mother to visit him, and in the morning only.

Dr. Suthachai is detained in a solitary unit. So is Mr Somyos Pruksakasemsuk who was arrested at the same time. Neither has been charged. In fact the arrests of them involved deception by the authorities. Both had got warrants to report to the police for some questioning. They complied. The police told them that they would bring them to the Crime Suppression Headquarter. Instead, they sent them to the Adisorn Army Camp in another province.

Legally, neither is Dr. Suthachai nor Mr. Somyos a law-breaker or a criminal since there is yet any charge. They are detained for interrogation. But they have been treated as if they were felons. Their treatments are more severe than the UDD leaders who are detained at the Naresuan Police Camp.

Dr. Suthachai brought some books to prepare for his class (at Chulalongkorn University) in a few weeks. But the soldiers took those books away and do not allow him to read anything (except a magazine about horses left by someone in this room). Dr. Suthachai, therefore, protests by going on a hunger strike. Our serious concern is that he has diabetes, requiring insulin injections twice a day. The lack of food may have serious effects on his condition, including a danger to his life.

Every words in the conversation between Dr. Suthachai and his wife on visiting day was recorded by 5 soldiers who stand around the couple.

This coming Sunday is the funeral for Bayan’s father. Dr. Suthachai’s lawyer will make an appeal to the court to allow him to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. But we do not know if the appeal would be granted, even though he is not yet charged or being a suspect or criminal of any kind whatsoever.

Sincerely,

Bonsong Chaisingkananont

Department of Philosophy

Silpakorn University

On behalf of friends and family of Dr. Suthachai Yimprasert.

P.S. To all “cyber warriors,” Please help spread this info as much as possible.

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