Blood politics

You’ve probably read of the ongoing blood protests in Thailand. The ‘Red Shirt’ Thaksin supporters have collected blood from their supporters to pour on the parliament. It’s all symbolic, but no-one seems to quite know what its symbolic of.

You can read it as ‘the blood of the people’, and so on. But, ahem, Thaksin himself spilt quite a lot of that when he was in power, so that may not be such a good idea. A better bet are the various black magic theories, which were the subject of a TV debate in Thailand. (See here and here.)

The blood pouring ceremony was headed by a Hindu Brahmin and a man carrying a statue of the Buddha. Mantras and so on were muttered, which shows that, at the very least, there’s more to it than just a symbol of political protest. Of course, last time it was the Yellow Shirts who used blood in their protests: they gathered the used sanitary products from their women supporters and placed them around a ‘powerful’ monument in Bangkok to undo the supposed magic of the Red Shirts.

As usual, monks have been at the forefront, both in giving blood and attending the rallies.

So who to support? Thaksin, a known criminal who raised corruption and nepotism to new levels in his term as PM, but who keeps getting elected because of his populist policies? Or the anti-democratic yellow Shirts, who avowedly want to undo the limited success of Thailand’s democracy, returning power where it belongs: the Bangkok elite? After such progress during the 90s, i feel so sad for Thailand that they are faced with this miserable choice.

31 thoughts on “Blood politics

  1. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    What surprises me the most is that these people cannot understand how mixing political claims and demands with religion is completely unecessary and useless…

    At the eyes of the world, all this red/yellow Thai mess is looking less and less legitimate, they talk about democracy but clearly don’t know what it is, and mix monks (real ones!? hehe), Buddha images and weird and nonsense rituals…

    Also, it is tragic to see these so-called “buddhists” making use of “black magic” and “blood rituals”, something that has no validity or power in the light of Dhamma at all!

    Surely, this is a proof of what comprises most of Thai Buddhism: politics, superstition and a lot of crazy and nonsense mix of rituals.

    Something that never makes sense to me is to see these Thai “brahmin” priests doing all their funny rituals and prayers.

    It is amazing how this people intentionally and consciously ignore the clear and sound call for introspective investigation and non-superstitious cultivation of skillfulness in the core of Buddha Dhamma.

    They clearly prefer cling to these false and unsustainable rituals and even hurt others for their “crazy voodoos”…

    Well, I do respect others’ beliefs, but as a Buddhist I cannot make a blind eye to the way Buddhism is clearly discarded and disrespected by these individuals who claim to take refugee in the Triple Gem but in the end are only playing with their own dellusions and doing a dirty, ilegitimate and unskillfull “karma-betting” with their lives…

    Sorry if this sounds too much political (I know monks should not be discussing this).

    Kind regards,

    Gabriel Laera
    A Brazilian Buddhist in Bangkok

  2. I am also feeling sad about the incidents. This link: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/local/34536/political-rallies-banned-near-govt-property-in-chiang-mai shows how some monks could be detrimental to Buddhism.

    “Another group of red shirts led by Phra Khru Thep Sutthikhun made their way to the statue of Chao Kawila, a former ruler of Chiang Mai, to splatter the second portion of the blood… [T]he monk splashed the blood on the soldiers and members of the media…”

    I wonder what the Council of Elders (Mahathera Samakhom), who are so very active about convincing people that bhikkhuni ordinations are against the Theravadin vinaya, will do about this kind of monks.

    • Dear Khun Dheerayupa

      Rats! I’ve not yet bought travel insurance for June. Looks like the premiums are going to be revised upwards.

    • I will check Prince Damrong’s epic “Khun Chang Khun Paen” to see if there are any wicha antidotes to deal with the rats of the biped variety. I’m surprised the Red Shirts have not struck Govt House’s gateposts with tapoos…

    • What about spreading infection by splashing people with other people’s blood? I’m at a loss for words, really.

      The BBC has some footage of it http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8571592.stm

      It seems strangely ritualised, with the police allowing a few people through their cordon to throw the blood. I wonder how many blood transfusions were poured down the drain?

  3. I cannot understand how countries like Thailand, Loas and Cambodia even Sri Lanka who appear to have very strong Buudhist values have so much poverty, corruption and bad governance…………….Why has Buddhism failed these societies??????

    Why cant Buddhism create healthy, wealthy, equitable and strong societies ?????

    • It is the human factor… Something not even Lord Buddha, as a SammaSambuddha were able to help much beside bringing back the Dhamma-Vinayaa! he he he

      At least, I try to see it from the good side:

      When we confirm how mediocre human beings can be, independent “races”, cultures, and even religious sects and philosophy, proves to be completely wrong any idea of the supremacy of castes, adepts of one religious view or another, or even pure races. These ideas which not only some western crazy guys like Hitler supported and did some big mess with, are somehow present in the very root of ALL asian civilizations – e.g. the invading “aryans” to the tribal India with their brahmins rulling the castes below them, the crazy chinese hierarchy structure which put some chosen ones, emperors or celestial rulers, between humanity and the cosmos, and also the xintoist rulers which were considered to be the living manifestations of the gods (kamis)…

      Well, this also shows us that democracy is not going to change much in the centuries ahead as it is putting individuals part of the same “human factor” to rule the other hairless monkeys (we all). The best we can do, without any doubt, is follow the path of the Enlightened One and His Noble Disciples.

      By doing so, if you are selfish and sick of all this, at least you can use the desire to get fully free to fuel your first steps (at least the 1st level of enlightment, which is only possible by the cessation of the false idea of an “I” and therefore any self being free from anything).

      Or if you like to see things from the “pink and colorful” point of view, change the selfish desire for liberation for the pleasant and satisfying ideal of “saving all beings”, which similarly shall be dissolved once the bhumis of the boddhissatta path are accomplished (in a non-accidental parallel to what is expected in the first alternative! ;-)).

      Sarva Mangalam!

    • Hmmm … I recant. More accurate to say that it is because Buddhism has failed to create a critical mass of ariya sangha who are willing and have the skills set to effectively take on roles of social leadership.

      Having said that, my use of the word ‘failed’ is misleading. I don’t think it is the primary role of Buddhism to create healthy societies. It’s primary role is to lead the willing and diligent to Nibbana.

      However, the arising of healthy societies can, perhaps, be a by-product of Buddhism in times when a critical mass of Ariyans — who are inclined and have the skills set to effectively take on positions of social leadership — happen to arise at once. But taking on such positions should be seen as an optional responsibility — the Buddha himself seriously considered not teaching what he knew.

      Of course, the factors that make for healthy societies are too complex to fathom. My purpose, here, is to question the inference that because many Buddhist countries are quite backwards, then there is something wrong with the Buddhism being practised there. This may or may not be the case, and probably varies a lot from monastery to monastery, teacher to teacher in any case.

      Wanting to make bread, we go to bakers. For paintings, to painters. For Nibbana, to the Buddha and Ariya Sangha. For healthy societies — who really knows! Civilisations rise to greatness, are largely misperceived when extant, and when they pass, misremembered or forgotten altogether.

      So, actually, my idea of a healthy Buddhist society led by socially inclined and skillful Ariyans is likely the stuff of fantasy.

      >j<

    • Yes, I would say that the problems in Buddhist societies have more to do with the colonial legacy than with Buddhism as such. After all, Buddhist cultures were some of the most advanced in the world for many hundreds of years.

    • Sadhu Bhante! But do you know that even in the goldern age of Buddhism, there were problems as well. It’s something to do with human nature, not with ideals (created by human minds under the spell of ignorance.) That is Avijja paccaya sankhara…

    • Sorry Bhante I cannot agree as Thailand was never subject to control by a colonial power.

      What I cannot understand is that Buddhist principles are a wonderful model for a healthy, balanced and equitable society and other than Bhutan it is hard to find a Buddhist society that has these qualities.

    • Well, I didn’t say the problems were entirely due to colonialism… Thailand was never colonized, but all the surrounding countries were, and it has been subject to many of the stresses of colonialism.

      But you’re right. The current problems in Thailand are probably more to do with their own internal mismanagement than anything else, more’s the pity.

    • Bill,

      My guess is that the “problem” is the human factor… and there isn’t much we can do about it…

      At least, let’s try to see the good side of things:

      The fact that all human societies/race/groups, independently from their religious, philosophical or moral inclinations/orientations, all prove through their histories to naturally regress towards mediocricity reveals the big fat lie of a born/predetermined superiority, be it of a race, group or elite.

      This big lie was not only followed in Europe – where Hitler was an extreme example of a political system blindly tied to such delusion, with the awful outcome for minorities and the very German people – but is in the very root of ALL asian societies, if we look closely – e.g the caste system crucial for the the brahmin control of the indian society that followed the aryan (people from central asia) invasion to Indian subcontinent; the rulling models of the Chinese empires, in which individuals are put at the top to be the link between the people and the cosmos (in Buddhist and Taoist reigns) or be the unquestionable rulling and thinking class of a society planned according to the “political Feng Shui” of Confucius; or the Shinto aristocracy believed to be the living link between human beings and the powerful Gods, or Kami (including the big salamander that was believed to live under Japan and be the reason for the earthquakes!).

      Well, gladly we Buddhists have an escape! :-D

      If you are fed up with it all, great, use this skillfully and in an initial “selfish” impulse give it a try to the Path to Nibbana, give up the lay life, dedicate yourself fully to the Dhamma-Vinaya.

      And please, do it without worries, for whatever selfishness that is there in the begining will necessarily dissolved as soon as you give the first step into the Deathless – let us not forget that stream-entry is marked by the full abandoning of any the idea of self, therefore, there will be no room selfishness! ;-)

      But if you prefer the fashionable and colorful “I will save the world” motto, no problem at all too, take the boddhisatta path, and just as it happens in the first alternative, as you move up in the levels or grounds of such path (the bhumis), any idea of identity – even that of a “great compassionate savior to the world’s misery” – is to be abandoned too [and this parallel is not accidental as the boddhisatta path was *inspired* by the oldschool! ;-)]

      Well, let’s not get too much political in our talks here and respect our dear and venerable Bhante Sujato for being himself, just as any other bhikkhu, an example of renunciation for us all to follow, or at least respect.

      Kind Regards,

      Gabriel Laera

    • Gabriel

      I think to a certain degree that Buddhism would fail if it did not address political issues.

      Even the Budddha at times got involved.

      I think that if Buddhist turn their backs on what is wrong or evil in society to save themselves they fail, because by not being prepared to uphold the values of the Dharma in society they deny the power of the wholesomeness of the dharma to help their fellow sentient beings

    • Bill,

      About Thailand, although it was never colonized, its history does not tell us good things, and if we review the facts and the figures, this status of ever being colonized (what is not so truth as the Japanese occupied it in the World War 2) cost a lot of money and dirty politics…

      Well, but maybe this topic should not go on here, in order to respect the space for discussing Dhamma that Bhante offers us, but please feel free to look for me in Facebook where we can develop and investigate further on the past of the Land of Smiles…

      Have you ever been to Bhutan?

      I have never been, but I read recently an article that argument against romanticising Bhutan as a haven of happiness, by
      Swaminathan S A Aiyar, who is a columnist in Economic Times and The Times of India.

      You may check the article here:

      *www.swaminomics.org/articles/20091101.htm*

      Being myself an economist I very much agree with his diagnosis of Bhutan’s happiness: a mix of a tiny state, ethnic persecution of non-Buddhist minorities, selective tourists inflow (rich and Buddhists only) and of course a big inflow of money directly to the state from the huge hydro power plants they managed to erect in all hills water would stay still.

      Also, I can remember my first Buddhist masters, two Bhutanese Lamas who used to live in Rio de Janeiro (where I grew up) and were not so enthusiastic about their country.

      I remember they were all so marvelled by simple things such as TV and would always remind us that back in their Dragon Land you would be jailed if not wearing robes, if living in a monastery, or the funny Bhutanese traditional clothes, if being a lay person. One of them, the youngest monk/lama, would be so glad to wear jeans bermuda in his free times! haha

      Well… if anyone here had money enough to fly there, please let us know what was your impression!

      For the time being, I take Mr. Aiyar analysis: “Bhutan’s happiness is large dam, fast GDP”.
      :-)

    • This sort of thing mainly stems from the Sutta Pitaka. The descriptive passage listing all the ‘bestial topics’ is fairly stock, and we see it come up in quite a few places (off hand you’ll find the list at DN 2). As you can see it’s fairly comprehensive and would disclude Monks from talking of politics to say nothing of actually being involved in such matters:

      “Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to the meeting hall and, on arrival, sat down on a seat made ready. As he was sitting there, he addressed the monks: “For what topic of conversation are you gathered together here? In the midst of what topic of conversation have you been interrupted?”

      “Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.”

      “It isn’t right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state… talk of whether things exist or not.

      “There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects.”

      - AN 10.69

      Nevertheless, the fact is that we live in an age where the much of ‘Theravadin Buddhism’ is actually quite disconnected from the Dhamma-Vinaya. Many monks today are Rupa-monks only, good luck trying to change them, better off changing yourself.

    • There’s a general policy to obey the laws of the country, and it was clearly important not to annoy the Kings. But as far as active involvement in politics goes, it seems to have been one of those things that never came up – I guess it was just unthought of. I think politics is clearly against the spirit of the Vinaya, but I can’t think of any specific rules.

      As far as protest goes, I don’t have any problem with a peaceful protest for clearly wholesome ends, such as walking for peace and the like.

  4. Ayya dharma :Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Sadhu Bhante! But do you know that even in the goldern age of Buddhism, there were problems as well. It’s something to do with human nature, not with ideals (created by human minds under the spell of ignorance.) That is Avijja paccaya sankhara… and which end up in dukkhakkhandhassa samudaya hotu. /P>

  5. I believe many people in Buddhist countries either don’t have access to or not interested in reading about the essential teachings of the Buddha., much less apply these principles in daily life. The main practice often consist of visiting the Temple ( for some it is only on big holidays), offer dana, chant/ listen to chant. The rituals are often the more widespread aspect instead of Buddhist principals. When some of these people are required by cultural norms to become monks ( for a brief period) they don’t have a strong foundation to prepare them for monastic life. Also, ordaining a few days, weeks, or months only give them enough time to learn the rituals and chanting. I don’t think it is enough time to really get to know the teaching. Often women don’t even have this opportunity. I wouldn’t say that corruptions or problems in society has to do with Buddhist teachings. Even if a medicine is effective, but if we forget to take it according to schedule or don’t take it at all then disease will remain.

    I wonder why lay people are not encouraged to learn the teachings and practice in some Buddhist countries , but are only encouraged to practice rituals and offering dana. By actually learning the teachings they can incorporate it in their lifestyle and benefit society. Also , they are better prepared for monastic training when they become ordain. The quality of monks will also be higher.

  6. This a very interesting era, where we can have both extreme,on one end with Dharma practicing Buddhist, the other , with people do not know much about Dharma but claim to be Buddhist.

    This is a typical example where Dharma can be slowly and naturally being forgotten.

    In Malaysia and Singapore there is a group of people trying to promote the daily practice of Dharma in their normal daily life for the past thirty years. The success is still very much limited.

    But, it still is a very important effort to let people distinguish what really Dharma is.

    There is another interesting group that using some technique to communicate with the Heavenly Gods, moving from one heaven to another.
    The out come is ,they are much the same as before, spiritually, it could be one of the reason why the Buddha not encourage the worship of Heavenly Gods.

    The Buddhist of today need reeducation, so that they have the chance to see the reality of Dharma. Which is a difficult but wholesome task. It would be a task which is difficult to see its end, or just a glimpse of light on the other end of the tunnel.

    LPK

    • Bodhinyana and the BSWA are doing a great job at educating people about Buddhism. They don’t leave out the important aspect of Buddhism ( words of the Buddha, and meditation). When visiting the Temple, people get to hear Dharma Talk, study the scripture/sutras, meditate. There is something for everybody whether you are totally new to Buddhism or advance practitioners. If there is no such outlet to learn and practice Buddhism at your location, simply set aside time each day/week to watch/listen through the internet from the comfort of your home. There are also meditation instruction available for download.

      The only issue is that many people are accustomed to just rituals and no knowledge of sutra/ meditation, because that is what they learned to do at the Temple all their lives. Hopefully this will change in the future if sutra studies and meditation practice become mainstream in Buddhist countries.

    • “Hopefully this will change in the future if sutra studies and meditation practice become mainstream in Buddhist countries.”

      What?!

      There have been some statements on this blog from Asian Buddhists criticising “Westerners” (whoever they are) who presume to practice Dharma differently from how it has traditionally been practiced in Asia for a few hundred years. While, as a Westerner (whoever that is), I found these statements to be racist, I must admit to a bit of “cultural cringe” and a feeling that there might be some disadvantage from not having been brought up in a traditional Buddhist culture.

      I think that any residual cultural cringe has now been firmly eradicated. Growing up outside a traditional Buddhist culture can mean growing up without blinkers of a certain kind (not that Westerners (whoever they are) don’t also have cultural blinkers) and seeing the dhamma afresh.

      I hope that, wherever we may be from, we can develop forms of practice which are true to the dhamma and which are helpful to all pracitioners, wherever they may have grown up.

    • Whether a person is born in the East or the West, these are just locations with a certain sets of norms and customs agreed upon by the group. I don’t think it is necessary to identify with locations to be self. Simply take what works from each location, and let go of what doesn’t work. The label of Easterner/ Westerner is irrelevant. Why not just exchange ideas and learn to improve, instead of being attach to learned habits from a particular location.

    • “This a very interesting era, where we can have both extreme,on one end with Dharma practicing Buddhist, the other , with people do not know much about Dharma but claim to be Buddhist.”

      Then there are, of course, those people practicing Dharma who don’t claim to be Buddhist and aren’t particularly concerned with the label.

  7. With present information technology, any information is just a click away.

    Practicing of Dharma is not so much of the problem of the availability of information.

    But the attainment of certain meditative state or certain level of wisdom is the difficult part.

    I have seen some friends who had been practice meditation every morning,but still not able to connect the meditative experience and incorporate into activities of daily life.

    The problem is with the ability in casting off the old thinking habit, the old mental tendencies which is hindering the spiritual progress.

    Long period of deep meditation will certain help, but people who are willing to let go the daily routine , take a few weeks off, to sit down to cast off the old self is
    consider as a “rare species”.

    The promotion of meditation and practising Dharma in daily life certainly is the way to go in the main stream.

    LPK

    • Dear LPK,

      PLK: “But the attainment of certain meditative state or certain level of wisdom is the difficult part.

      I have seen some friends who had been practice meditation every morning,but still not able to connect the meditative experience and incorporate into activities of daily life.”

      I believe at some point, a person need to either set up a lifestyle similar to a retreat/ monastery or join a conducive monastery / refuge for further progress in meditation.

      LPK: “Long period of deep meditation will certain help, but people who are willing to let go the daily routine , take a few weeks off, to sit down to cast off the old self is consider as a “rare species”.

      True,letting go of the world of samsara is not for everyone. And not everyone will want to go this far in the spiritual journey.

      LPK: “The promotion of meditation and practising Dharma in daily life certainly is the way to go in the main stream.”

      Learning about the precepts , law of cause and effect, compassion, etc..can help to promote “Right action”, “Right speech”, ” Right Livelihood”, and the like. Even if a person doesn’t want to go as far taking time off for retreats or not interested in Awakening, he/she can still enjoy other benefits of meditation. For example, physical and mental well-being, relaxation/ stress release. Anyone can benefit from taking some time to go within each day. Who knows, some will want to go further, some might not. But it is a good place to start.

  8. An update to Sonkron.

    Friday, April 16, 2010
    BLESSED ARE THE FUN-MAKERS
    BY PHILIP J CUNNINGHAM

    (published in the Bangkok Post, April 17, 2010)

    The sight of red-shirted protesters taking a break from the incendiary heat of political battle to gently douse one another with water in the spirit of Songkran past and present is a small but meaningful step towards repairing dangerous social ruptures and healing the pain of recent political violence.

    By taking time out to celebrate a common cultural identity grounded neither in race, religion nor flag, but a delightful folk tradition that elevates fun-loving to a degree rarely seen elsewhere, Thai street combatants have shown a depth of character and resilience that bodes well for resolving civil discord and restoring a sense of normalcy.

    The Khao San Road area was hard hit by conflict but was also the site for some transformative fun of the sort that had the world media raising a collective eyebrow.

    Going from bullets to buckets of water in a few short days is jolting to the senses, and confounds the media narrative of doom and gloom in the streets, but it does show a glimmer of hope for a peaceful resolution to a seemingly intractable conflict.

    The basically good-natured, transformative capacity of both the crowd and the crowd controllers has been evident all along, though last Saturday’s shocking violence threatened to be a game changer.

    Up until the outbreak of violence on April 10, the exact origins and motivations of which have not yet been clearly established, protesters and security forces alike showed enormous restraint, humour and patience in conjuring up creative, non-violent ways to do their thing.

    This, not the aberrant outbreak of gratuitous violence that is attributed by many protesters and the government alike to a malevolent third force, should be the guide to future actions.

    It is critical that conscientious individuals on both sides of the barricades retain their essential autonomy and goodness and not be carried away by crowd psychology and group dynamics to the point of hurting others.

    Soldiers and rebels alike need to isolate, identify, contain and eventually help adjudicate any criminal behaviour acts, whether attributed to rogue soldiers, terrorists or fellow partisans.

    Meanwhile, protesters of any colour or stripe should feel free, and be free, to continue to air grievances, exercise free assembly and free speech, with the understanding that violence be avoided at all costs.

    And while soldiers and government officials need not be treated with fawning respect, they too deserve to be kept free of bodily harm.

    If and when violence does break out, as it did on ”Black Saturday”, it behooves all to step back and reflect deeply, rather than seek revenge in the heat of the moment.

    Unexplained acts of violence continue to put the nation on edge. Whether violators of the peace are agents provocateur or just ”normal people” who tragically get carried away with unbridled emotion, it is important to stem the tide.

    Hardline, hardcore tactics do not serve the best interests of the crowd or those duty-bound to control the crowd.

    As annoying as traffic disruptions due to demonstrations may be, as irritating as songs and slogans of society’s discontents may be to those entrenched in the status quo, the temporary closure of a major intersection is tolerable if not democracy-affirming, in comparison to dictatorial control.

    If an army clique or coup group should in the days ahead pre-emptively deprive the people of their basic rights and freedoms in order to get the traffic moving again, then the chaotic days of yellow shirts and red shirts will seem carefree in comparison to the jack-booted world in which tanks take the place of protesters and the noisy media is reduced to a slick propaganda machine.

    People of all political persuasions, vehemently though they may disagree about certain issues, should cooperate at least enough to prevent the axe, currently hanging by the thinnest of threads, from smashing down on dissent of all kinds. There is an unfortunate tendency for both the media and the powers-that-be to focus on a crowd and begin to take seriously its claims only when it gets violent in word and deed. There needs to be a reversal of this trend. In order not to validate violence, peaceful gatherings crying out for social justice should be listened to with the utmost earnestness and respect. Those with the stamina and political will to continue peaceful protest ought rightly do so, showing their solidarity, willpower and goodwill through rightful words and rightful actions.

    At this delicate juncture, it would be a tactical mistake for either protesters or army people to make a sacrificial lamb of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, tempting though it may be to clear the deck for the sake of political theatre.

    Mr Abhisit is a thoughtful, reflective leader who appears to possess both the brains and decency necessary for compromise and dialogue, though he needs to unmoor himself from the tainted political machine that propelled him to power.

    The likely result of forcing Mr Abhisit to step down on account of bloodshed provoked by other political actors is that either the military will step up, or chaos will ensue, further undermining the chance for democracy to take root and instead paving the way for a return of the kind of strongman rule that past generations of students and citizens sacrificed so much for so long ago.

    Those who feel they have been deprived full participation in all the best that Thailand has to offer, have the right, and indeed the responsibility, to help correct social injustice, even if it means taking to the streets and disrupting some traffic.

    But to attack the person of the prime minister or army encampments or media installations shows neither goodwill nor common sense. Anyone with a whit of familiarity with Thailand’s history of bloody coups recognises the pattern; coup plotters sow discord, spread hate and seize state organs to assert political/business dominance with the help of military factions behind the scenes.

    Do the downtrodden protesters from the farms of Isan and the North really want to be proxies in a humourless and unforgiving power-grab?

    The Songkran water-splashing suggests otherwise. Despite difficulties, Thailand’s quintessential free spirit is alive and well. If cool heads can prevail and incendiary incidents are not allowed to spiral out of control, then peace has a chance. Every small act of peace-making, every gesture of tolerance, and every attempt at dialogue contributes to reversing a dangerously negative polarity. With time, patience and persistence, the sundered social fabric may at last be mended and rewoven in a just and more equitable way.

    Philip J Cunningham is a free-lance writer and political commentator.

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