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Thailand: Prayut must be judged by Thais, not outsiders


Editorial Desk

To many people, how Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha fares internationally is more important than how he fares locally. His United Nations venture has drawn much attention, largely because he was a coup leader and the UN conference is his first formal appearance on the world stage.

Local incidents before he left for the United States were linked to the UN event by both critics and supporters of his government. All eyes were on how big the protest or protests against him would be in Washington.

The truth is that it matters little how loud the “boos” sounded or whether the general choked on his words on the global stage.

Appearance or image is highly overrated in politics, which is why a lot of politicians care more about how they look than what they really do. It’s also why spin doctors, or publicists, or lobbyists, are getting obscene money telling the public what to think.

Prayut should be judged by Thais on how he goes about implementing “reform” in the country, and on how he maintains law and order, and on how much these actions infringe on people’s liberty and freedom.

Most important of all, Prayut should be judged on how happy Thais are following the tumultuous political strife that made threats of a civil war look quite real.

It is clear that many “outsiders” are willing to speak on behalf of Thais. A human rights report on the country has been issued.

Diplomats have been either outspoken regarding the need to return to civil rule or have implicitly aided one side of the political divide. Prayut himself complained that his government was “provoked” to take tough action against political dissents so he would look bad at the UN.

The United Nations is the best peace-promoting global mechanism we can hope for. It’s as good as we can get.

But the international body has been struggling against forces that can turn it into a stage for singing contests, where rhetoric reigns supreme and “priorities” get badly mixed up.

It has failed to prevent the war in Iraq. It has largely failed to deal effectively with the real oppressors who cause real suffering and risks being exploited by lobbyists with agendas.

Real ordeals keep mounting around the world, sometimes overshadowed by politically motivated claims about suffering or suppression.

Thais and the world will continue to have divided opinions on Prayut, no matter what he says at the UN or what people say about him at the UN. When he returns to Thailand, some people will be satisfied with what happens in Washington while others won’t.

How much should we care? How much should we ignore? People will have different answers to those questions, but the following remarks by Thaksin Shinawatra in the early 2000s when he was prime minister may give us some clues:

"[The] UN is not my father.” Thaksin said that in March 2003 when journalists asked him about UN human rights people raising concerns about his anti-narcotics campaign, which led to a large number of people dying in extra-judicial killings.

“Please leave us alone,” Thaksin said in the following year, after fatal crackdowns on Islamic radicals in Thailand’s deep south.

“It's my job and we can cope with this matter. We are trying to explain this to foreigners, but if they don’t understand or ignore our reasons, I don’t care because we are not begging them for food.”

One thing is clear: Thaksin’s downfall had nothing to do with those popular speeches. And this should serve as Prayut’s biggest lesson.

Source: The Nation 

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