respect my vote

Let’s talk about politics reform (5) We need basic standards of human rights

Numnual  Yapparat

Today advanced voting was taking place in Thailand and we have seen disturbing scenes. Sutep’s mobs tried to block the election venues in Bangkok by working closely with the election commission’s staff. They used violence against ordinary people who wanted to vote. However, in several areas, especially in Bangkok, pro-democracy people came out to resist the thugs and to vote.  In Pattani and Yala provinces the heads of the villages and religious leaders faced down Sutep’s mob and ensured that people could express their democratic will smoothly. The activities of pro-democracy groups have been ignored by the mainstream media but in the social media it is another world. There is hope that we can have real political reform, but pro-democracy movements must be the main force to achieve it.

The international human rights organisation, FIDH and its member organizations in the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL) has condemned Sutep’s mob. But the Thai National Human Rights Commission remained silent. As the crisis goes on, the main stream institutions are finding it more and more difficult to hide their real personalities. There are no standards of human rights in Thailand. Why is this so? The main explanation would be the prevailing conservative attitude which does not tolerate the fact that citizens should be equal. The Thai people are usually called “Ras-sa-don” which means a group of people who live in the land belonging to the king. The concept was used during the Absolute Monarchy. It is an out of date concept and is incompatible with the modern democratic world.

The concepts supporting inequality have been re-emphasised by the military which staged coups and committed crimes against the people again and again. Such crimes happened in 1973, 1976, 1992 and under Taksin’s government at “Tak-Bai” and in the “war on drugs”. In 2010, the Democrat Party and the military killed red shirts in Bangkok. None of those who committed these crimes have been punished. We need to learn from Argentina, South Korea and Chile about punishing state criminals.

In the work places, employers think that they have absolutely rights over their employees. The attitude is fully enshrined in labour laws as well as in the minds of the judges who fail to deliver justice. When judges sit in court they look at the poor with contemptuous eyes as if the poor were only animals. These people ignore modern views that respect prisoners as human. The children of the rich can get away easily when they kill people because “daddy” buys the police and judges.

There is a very hostile view against migrants or refugees, but there are a few groups who show solidarity with unfortunate people from neighbouring countries. Lots of Thais have no feeling at all when they hear the news about migrants being exploited. They just ignore the news or explain that these people are “not Thai” so why should we brother about them. But Thais themselves do not have rights.

What can we see in the mainstream body language in Thai society? “Good Thais” have to crawl to show their respect to people who are in power or are their seniors. The main purpose of this practise is that the Thai elites need us to believe that “people are unequal”. This grotesque culture has been taught through schools and families. In the elite households they make their maids crawl to them as well. The unequal concepts can be easily seen in daily conversations, especially with personal pronouns which signify social position. Women are told that they need to call themselves “Noo” which means “little mouse” in a childish fashion. The idea simply identifies women as second class citizens.

The first step to standardise human rights is to abolish the National Human Rights Commission. The organisation is full of soldiers, police and academics who stand against democracy.

Then, we need to campaign that Thailand accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court so that we can punish state criminals such as the generals, Abhisit, Sutep and Taksin.

In the long term, we need to increase the rights in work places, schools, and universities and we need full gender rights. We need human dignity and respect.

Photo credit: (The Nation Newspaper)