Monday, January 24, 2011

Slaying Dragons

Earlier this month, Pravit Rojanaphruk, of the Nation, one of Bangkok’s English Newspapers, wrote an open letter to the Red Shirts.  That letter in English can be found here:

That letter in Thai can be found here:

Pravit starts out his letter like this:

“Now that tens of thousands of you have re-grouped to continue the struggle against the old order, take a few moments to consider my advice, which I hope will be useful to you and society at large.”
I will forgive Pravit for not saying the magic word “PLEASE” and I will remind everyone of the famous American saying, “advice is like assholes, everyone has one.” That being said, evidently the Nation has quite a few assholes.
However, Pravit is correct about one thing in his letter when he states that “There is no place for lese majeste law in a truly democratic society because citizens in a democracy should be able to express their "critical" views without fear of persecution.” Then Pravit goes on to suggest that the Red Shirts shouldn’t use the Wikileaks documents to sue certain Privy Council members for lese majeste.
I couldn’t disagree more and here is my opinion (yes, I’ve been called an asshole too).  Another American saying is “opportunity knocks but once.” The Wikileaks document where certain members of the Privy Council were bad mouthing a member of the Royal Family is such a rare and golden opportunity. Consider this as ‘manna’ from heaven, a powerful gift from above or even karma, if you will.  One just shouldn’t waste a precious opportunity that can be used to smite the evil dragons which are the enemies of democracy.
Pravit mentioned one of these dragons.  It is the dragon of Lese Majeste, really draconian and really undemocratic. 
So how do you slay such a beast? By doing nothing? No, you draw attention to it and what better way to do so than to use the Wikileaks document to do this. Besides, I’m sure the enemies of democracy would love nothing more than for the Red Shirts to NOT use the Wikileaks document.
Worried about those Privy Council members being thrown in jail for lese majeste? Not me but if you are then you don’t have to worry about it much because there is another evil and anti-democratic dragon in Thailand which will probably come to the accused Privy Council Members rescue – the dragon of Double Standards.  
Again, one can only fight something that is out in the open. If the Red Shirts don’t use the Wikileaks documents then how can people fully see the evil of lese majeste and double standards?
But what happens if, by some miracle, this lese majeste case does go to court? Another evil and anti-democratic dragon called “Corrupt Courts” lurks. 
Expose it, expose all Thailand’s evil dragons, bring them out into the light in order to slay them.
Oh, I almost forgot. There are a few other scaly reptilian creatures which are just as evil and anti-democratic in Thailand that need to be exposed.  One in particular is especially vile.  Not to be confused with the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia, the Prem-odo Dragon of Thailand is one of the worst enemies of democracy there ever was.

This Orange Shirt wishes the Red Shirts the best of luck with their law suit.  Go for it!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Early Home-Made Thanksgiving Cards

What’s with these petty dictators of authoritarian regimes around the world banning Western holidays?  I just recently read in a news article that Iran has forbidden Valentine’s Day gifts.  Evidently, they want to discourage the spread of “Western” culture and “Western” democracy.  
This phenomenon is of great concern in the Hale household. My young daughter is afraid that the leader of the authoritarian Thai government, may do something else evil like banning one of her favorite holidays; Thanksgiving. So she made some home-made Thanksgiving cards for everyone including Abhisit Vejjajiva. They are so cute and from the heart, I thought I'd share a couple of them with everybody. She hasn't gotten her colors quite right. I admit she needs more red and orange (her Mom and I will work on that) but I'm still very proud of her.   

Is it me or does the drawing for Abhisit look more like a chicken?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Remembering Nurse Kade

There was a excellent report recently in Thai Intelligence News about Phayao Akkahad being invited to testify to the UK Human Rights Unit.

Phayao is the mother of Kamolked Akkahad, the medic who was shot and killed by the Thai military at Wat Pathumwanaram refuge on May 21. The tent where Kamolked worked, clearly had Red Cross markings on it and many of the medics working there, including Kamolked, clearly were wearing Red Cross symbols.

Phayao Akkahad Wants Justice for her Daughter  

Thanks to this report I am reminded of Kamolkade’s beautifully written obituary by Prachatai, an independent Thai news organization whose website is banned in Thailand.  Prachatai’s websites are censored there because they prefer to report the truth and not just pass on Thai regime propaganda. The junta running the government now would like everyone to believe that all the Red Shirts killed were terrorists. The following is the short short account of the life, death and funeral of Kamolkade Akkahad from Prachatai.  See if you think Kamolkade was a terrorist.

Kamolkade Akkahad

Kamolkade Akkahad was 25 when she was shot dead inside Pathumwanaram Temple on 19 May. She was called Kade by her friends, but was Moo (pig) to her family members, as she ate a lot and was plump, according to her mother.

Kade was born into a poor family. Her mother used to sell khao kaeng (rice with toppings), and then turned to selling flowers and garlands in the market. Her father works for an electricity utility. She had a warm family, with two younger brothers, 21 and 18, to whom she was very close.

Her mother and brothers characterized her as outspoken and sharp-tongued, yet good-humoured, and she was loved by others and had many friends. She was popular at the market when she went to help her mother there.

Kade was always stubborn, from her childhood until her last minute. In junior high school, she often skipped class to join friends who were volunteers with the Po Tek Tung Foundation. They went to help the injured and the dead. Her mother said Kade never feared anything, and liked this kind of challenging work, helping people. She could not stop her daughter, and could only let her go, like this time with the red shirts.

She went to commercial college for a while, and then quit to study in the non-formal education system instead. She went on to get paramedic training and apprenticed at hospital accident and forensic departments. After training, she worked in the accident and emergency department of a hospital.

She worked there for a few years until the hospital was shut down. She helped her mother at the market and got a temporary job with a relative. During the red shirt protests, she initially went as a volunteer after work, and then left her job completely. She told her mother that there were many elderly and children, and many got sick. Although there were many volunteers, there were not enough.

Kade aspired to take the exam to be a nursing aide in the army, and vowed to her mother ‘if I pass the exam, I will go down South,’ to the southern border provinces. Her mother knew too well to oppose her, but could only suggest that she take the exam next year as she was not likely to reduce her weight in time for this year.

When she was serving full time for the protesters, she hardly ever took phone calls from her family for fear of being ordered home. On the day she died, she took a call from her mother a few hours before she was shot. It was the last time that her mother heard her voice while she was attending the injured. She was hit while wearing a paramedic’s uniform. Doctors said she was hit twice, and her brain was damaged by the bullets. Her friends who received her body suspected that she had been hit more than twice.

Her brother said that when they heard the bad news her family members were all in tears. Her mother finally controlled herself, and started arranging things for the last time for her daughter, while her father still could not eat. Her youngest brother watched old video clips of the family, crying all night.

The initial plan to keep the body for 100 days before cremation, according to Thai tradition, was scrapped, so that her family members, her father in particular, could recover from their grief.

A lot of people attended the funeral. The cremation took place at Pak Bung temple, Rom Klao, Minburi, Bangkok, on 26 May.

I am reluctant to directly show the horrific and gruesome pictures of Kamolkade and the other victims of the Wat Pathum massacre here but I have included a link below to a picasa photo album. 

And, please, don’t just remember ‘Kade’ lying on the ground at Wat Pathum. Remember her this way instead.  

Kamolkade Akkahad

Warning the link below contains graphic pictures of the victims at Wat Pathum: 

Below is the original obituary in Thai from Prachatai.
‘กมนเกด อัคฮาด’: เบื้องหน้าความตาย เบื้องหลังชีวิต พยาบาลอาสาในวัดปทุมฯ
Wed, 2010-05-26 02:53 Prachatai
กมนเกด อัคฮาด ดำเนินชีวิตมาได้ 25 ปีกับอีก 1 เดือน ชื่อเล่นที่เพื่อนๆ เรียกคือเกด แต่สำหรับครอบครัวแล้วเรียกว่า “หมู” เธอมีรูปร่างอ้วนท้วมสมบูรณ์ แม่ของเธอบอกว่าสาเหตุหลักมาจากการกินแหลกนั่นเอง
เกดเกิดในครอบครัวที่พ่อแม่ทำงานปากกัดตีนถีบ แม่ขายข้าวแกง ก่อนจะมาขายดอกไม้ พวงมาลัย ในตลาดใกล้บ้าน พ่อเป็นลูกจ้างอยู่ที่การไฟฟ้าแห่งหนึ่ง แต่ครอบครัวของเธออบอุ่น เกดและน้องชายอีก 2 คน คนหนึ่งอายุ 18 ปี อีกคนหนึ่งอายุ 21 ปี สนิทกันมาก วิ่งไล่แกล้งกันตั้งแต่เล็กจนโต และจนกระทั่งปัจจุบัน
น้องๆ และแม่เล่าว่า เกดเป็นคนโวยวาย โผงผาง อารมณ์ดี ปากร้าย พูดจาตรงๆ แต่ใครๆ ก็รัก เพื่อนเพียบ สมัยช่วยแม่ขายของที่ตลาดใครก็รู้จักเกดกันทั้งบาง วันไหนไม่ไป น้องๆ นุ่งๆ แถวนั้นเป็นอันหมดสนุก น้องชายของเกดบอกว่า เสียงหัวเราะของเธอได้ยินไกลลั่นทุ่ง ไม่ต้องเห็นตัวก็รู้ว่าเกดมาแล้ว
อันที่จริงแม้ใครไม่เคยได้เห็นเกดตอนมีชีวิต ถ้าได้คุยกับแม่ของเกดก็พอเดาได้ว่าอารมณ์ลุยๆ ห้าวๆ นั้นเธอได้มาจากใคร ก็โบราณเขาว่าดูนางให้ดูแม่ ในขณะที่พ่อเป็นคนค่อนข้างเงียบ เรียบร้อย และดูใจเย็น
เกดเป็นคนดื้อ ดื้อมาตั้งแต่เด็กจนกระทั่งนาทีสุดท้ายของชีวิต สมัยเรียนมัธยม เกดมักโดดเรียนเป็นประจำเพื่อหนีไปกับเพื่อน เพื่อนก๊วนเกดเป็นอาสาสมัครปอเต๊กตึ๊ง และมักชวนกันออกตระเวนช่วยเหลือคนเจ็บคนตายด้วยกันเสมอ แม่ยืนยันเกดไม่เคยกลัวอะไร และชอบงานท้าทายที่ได้ช่วยชีวิตคนแบบนี้มาก ห้ามไม่ได้ก็เลยปล่อย เช่นเดียวกับการอาสาไปดูแลคนเสื้อแดงคราวนี้
จบจากมัธยม เรียนพาณิชย์ได้ไม่เท่าไรก็ต้องลาออกมาเรียน กศน. จากนั้นจึงไปเรียนต่อศึกษาบริบาล ระหว่างเรียนก็ฝึกงานตามโรงพยาบาล ทั้งแผนกอุบัติเหตุ จนถึงนิติเวช ก่อนจะออกมาประจำอยู่ที่โรงพยาบาลการุณพิทักษ์แผนกอุบัติเหตุ แม่บอกว่าเกดมีทักษะด้านนี้ บางทีนักเรียนแพทย์ผ่าเส้นเอ็นอะไรไม่เป็นก็มาให้เกดช่วยสอน หรือแผนกแต่งศพไม่มีคนก็มาเรียกเกดเพราะเธอทำได้ทุกอย่าง
แม่เล่าว่า ครั้งหนึ่งในแผนกอุบัติเหตุที่โรงพยาบาลแห่งหนึ่ง มีคนงานถูกเครื่องจักรบดนิ้ว หมอบอกว่าอาจต้องตัดนิ้วทิ้งสามสี่นิ้ว แต่เกดเห็นแล้วหวังว่ายังพอต่อได้ และคนงานไม่มีนิ้วก็เท่ากับแทบไม่เหลือโอกาสทำมาหากิน เกดจึงบอกให้คนไข้คนนั้นอดทนหน่อยเพื่อรอหมอมือฉมังที่สุดที่กำลังมาสับเวร กระทั่งหมอมาและตัดสินใจผ่าตัด ดาม ต่อให้อย่างเต็มที่ ไม่ต้องเสียนิ้ว
ทำอยู่สองสามปีจนโรงพยาบาลปิดตัวลง เกดจึงได้ออกมาช่วยแม่ค้าขาย กระทั่งได้ทำงานชั่วคราวกับญาติก่อนที่จะโดดงานอีกครั้งเพื่อไปเป็นอาสาสมัครในที่ชุมนุมกลุ่มเสื้อแดง แรกๆ ก็ไปหลังเลิกงาน แต่ช่วงหลังดูเหมือนเธอไปอย่างเต็มตัว และทิ้งที่บ้านไว้เบื้องหลัง เกดบอกแม่ว่าประชาชนมีคนเฒ่าคนแก่และเด็กเยอะ อยู่กันยาวๆ มีเจ็บป่วยกันแยะ แม้มีอาสาสมัครหลายคนที่มาช่วยแต่ก็ยังไม่ได้สัดส่วนกับผู้ชุมนุม
ความใฝ่ฝันของเกดต้องการไปสอบเป็นผู้ช่วยพยาบาลในกองทัพบก และประกาศเจตนาแน่วแน่กับแม่ว่า “ถ้าสอบได้ หนูจะลงใต้”  แม่รู้ดีว่ายากจะห้ามปราม แต่ก็ได้ทักท้วงให้สอบปีหน้า เพราะปีนี้คาดว่าคงลดน้ำหนักไม่ทัน  
หลังจากไปร่วมกับอาสาสมัครอื่นๆ คอยปฐมพยาบาลกลุ่มผู้ชุมนุมอย่างเต็มตัว เกดก็ไม่ค่อยรับโทรศัพท์ที่บ้านเพราะกลัวโดนตามตัวกลับ กระทั่งวันที่เธอเสียชีวิต เธอรับโทรศัพท์แม่ก่อนเสียชีวิตไม่กี่ชั่วโมง มันเป็นเสียงสุดท้ายที่ผู้เป็นแม่ได้ยินขณะทำหน้าที่ช่วยเหลือผู้บาดเจ็บคนอื่นๆ  เธอถูกยิงขณะทำหน้าที่นั้น ในชุดคลุมสัญลักษณ์หน่วยแพทย์ หมอบอกเพียงว่า เธอโดนยิง 2 นัดกระสุนทำลายสมอง ขณะที่เพื่อนๆ ที่ไปรับศพเธอคาดว่ามีมากกว่าสองนัด
น้องชายคนกลางเล่าว่า หลังรู้ข่าวบ้านทั้งบ้านมีแต่เสียงร้องไห้ระงม ไม่มีใครได้สติ กระทั่งแม่เริ่มยอมรับสภาพได้ และเริ่มต้นจัดแจงทุกสิ่งทุกอย่างเป็นครั้งสุดท้ายเพื่อลูกสาว ขณะที่พ่อยังคงไม่กินข้าวกินปลา น้องชายคนเล็กดูคลิปครอบครัวเก่าๆ แล้วร้องไห้ทั้งคืน
ความตั้งใจที่แต่เดิมจะเก็บไว้ร้อยวันเป็นอันยุติลงเนื่องจากต้องการให้คนที่บ้าน โดยเฉพาะผู้เป็นพ่อพ้นจากความโศกเศร้าตรอมใจ
งานสวดอภิธรรมมีคนที่รู้ข่าวปากต่อปากหลั่งไหลมากันแน่นศาลา ส่วนงานฌาปนกิจศพของเกดจะมีขึ้นในวันนี้ (May 26) เวลา 17.00 น. ที่วัดปากบึง ร่มเกล้า  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

From the Earth to the Sky

Earlier this week I wrote about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I included one of his famous speeches. Dr. King was one of the greatest orators in US history.

Thailand currently has a great orator as well in Nattawut Saikua, a Red Shirt Leader and, like Dr. King, he fights for equality and against oppression. 

นายณัฐวุฒิ ใสยเกื้อ
Mr. Nattawut Saikua

Nattawut gave a powerful and beautiful speech to a crowd of Red Shirts in December 2008 in front of parliament after the military appointed Constitution Court ousted the democratically elected government and then formed a puppet government with Abhisit Vejjajiva as Prime Minister.  

Nattawut invoked a powerful elemental imagery which portrays the Red Shirts in the figurative form of the sons and daughters of the land who know full well that a vast distance separates them from the sky.  
‘We only have to look down to realize that we are worth no more than a handful of earth.’ We, the redshirts, are a people denied respect and justice, a people whose collective voice, rising from the land to the sky, calls for the acknowledgement that ‘we too have heart and soul.’

From the Earth to the Sky

Natthawut Saikua

...We’re denied many things. We’re denied justice; respect in the way governmental bodies treat us; accurate and direct reporting about us in the media. We’re denied the chance to openly declare our fight – to openly and directly declare, with our clarity and sincerity, what it is that we are fighting for.

What’s most important for us all to remember, brothers and sisters, is that we are the salt of the earth. 

We are the people with no privileges.

We were born on the land. We grew up on the land. Each step that we take is on this same land. We stand, with our two feet planted here, so far away from the sky.
Tilting our heads fully upwards, we gaze at the sky, and we realize how far away that sky is.
Standing on this land, we only have to look down to realize that we are worth no more than a handful of earth.

But I believe in the power of the Red Shirts. I believe our number is growing day-by-day, minute-by-minute. Even though we stand on this land, and we speak out from our place among the earth, our voice will rise to the sky. Of this I have no doubt.

The voice we’re making now – our cries and shouts – is the voice of people who are worth only a handful of earth. But it is the voice of the people who were born and grew up on this land, and it will rise to the level of the sky.

We, the Red Shirts, want to say to the land and sky that we too have heart and soul. We, the Red Shirts, want to remind the land and sky that we too are the Thai people. We, the Red Shirts, want to ask the land and sky whether we have been condemned to seek, by ourselves, a rightful place to plant our feet here.

The speech sounds even better in Thai, and most who heard the speech were moved to tears… It was this particular speech, and not others, that struck a powerful chord among the UDD supporters.

What does the texture of the speech and its reception say about the basis of people’s identification with the Red Shirts’ movement?

Very simply – The Red Shirt movement isn’t about bringing Thaksin Shinawatra back into power like the pro-government propagandists would want you to believe.  Thaksin wasn’t even mentioned in this speech.  No, the Red Shirt movement is about equality.  Not economic or social equality, although those are part of the problem, but political equality.  That at least one day out of every 4 years a dirt poor and uneducated farm worker can walk out of a polling booth feeling equal with the highest of the high society types in Bangkok and that he too has a say in what direction his country should take.

When the political disparity is resolved then the economic and social disparity can start to be addressed.  This is what is great about democracy and why Thailand needs it so badly.

Nattawut Saikua is currently imprisoned unjustly by the oppressive Thai regime because he speaks out for democracy in Thailand. This is wrong!!!


Here is the original excerpt of Nattawut’s speech in Thai…

เราไม่มีโอกาสได้รับความยุติธรรม เราไม่มีโอกาสได้รับการปฏิบัติอย่างดีจากองค์กรของรัฐ เราไม่มีโอกาสได้รับพื้นที่ ที่นำเสนอข่าวอย่างตรงไปตรงมาจากสื่อหลายแขนง เราไม่มีโอกาสได้ประกาศการต่อสู้ของตัวเอง

ว่านี่คือการต่อสู้อย่างชัดเจน บริสุทธิ์ใจ ตรงไปตรงมา และที่สำคัญที่สุดพี่น้องครับ... ให้พี่น้องจดจำและมั่นใจว่า เราไม่มีเส้นครับ...


เราเกิดบนผืนแผ่นดิน เราโตบนผืนแผ่นดิน เราก้าวเดินบนผืนแผ่นดิน เมื่อเรายืนอยู่บนดิน เราจึงห่างไกลเหลือเกินกับท้องฟ้า... พี่น้องครับ...

เมื่อเรายืนอยู่บนดิน ต้องแหงนคอตั้งบ่า แล้วเราก็รู้ว่า... ฟ้าอยู่ไกล... เมื่อเราอยู่บนดิน แล้วก้มหน้าลงมา เราจึงรู้ว่า... เรามีค่าเพียงดิน...

แต่ผมแน่ใจว่า ด้วยพลังของคนเสื้อแดงที่มันจะมากขึ้นทุกวัน ทุกวัน ขยายตัวเพิ่มขึ้น ทุกนาที ทุกนาที

แม้เรายืนอยู่บนผืนดิน แม้เราพูดอยู่บนผืนดิน แต่จะได้ยินถึงท้องฟ้า แน่นอน!

เสียงไชโยโห่ร้องของเราในยามนี้ จากคนที่มีค่าเพียงดิน จากคนที่เกิดและเติบโตบนผืนแผ่นดิน จะได้ยินถึงท้องฟ้า แน่นอน!

คนเสื้อแดงจะบอกดิน บอกฟ้าว่า... คนอย่างข้าก็มีหัวใจ...! คนเสื้อแดงจะบอกดิน บอกฟ้าว่า... ข้าก็คือคนไทย...! คนเสื้อแดงจะถามดิน ถามฟ้าว่า... ถ้าไม่มีที่ยืนที่สมคุณค่า...! จะถามดิน ถามฟ้าว่า... จะให้ข้าหาที่ยืนเองหรืออย่างไร...! 

เสียงไชโยโห่ร้องของคนเสื้อแดง จะได้ยินถึงดิน ถึงฟ้า...!

พี่น้องที่เคารพครับ แต่ไม่ว่าเราจะมีหรือไม่มีอะไร เรามีสิ่งที่มีค่าที่สุดแล้ว ในแนวทางของการต่อสู้ คือจิตวิญญาณของประชาธิปไตย

และผมอยากจะกราบเรียนพี่น้องว่า มีอยู่สิ่งหนึ่งที่ผมคิดว่าผมต้องทำ ตั้งใจแล้ัวว่าต้องทำ

ตั้งแต่นำพี่น้องอยู่ที่ด่านมะขามเตี้ยว่า สิ่งที่ต้องทำ และต้องแสดงออกกับพี่น้องที่รวมตัวกันอยู่ที่นั่น หรือว่าไม่ได้ไปที่นั่น แต่ส่งใจมากร้อยรัดกันเป็นพลัง ก็คือว่า พี่น้องครับ สำหรับความยิ่งใหญ่ของพี่น้อง ทำได้อย่างนี้อย่างเดียวครับ (ก้มกราบ) ผมทำได้อย่างเดียวจริงๆ

ยิ่งใหญ่เหนือกำลัง ยิ่งใหญ่เหนือกำลัง คือ...พลังแห่งมวลมหาประชาชน..!

     ณัฐวุฒิ ใสยเกื้อ
ธันวาคม .. 2550

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Two Boycotts

On Monday, January 17th, America celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Dr. King was a Baptist minister, activist, and prominent leader in the African American civil rights movement.  He was an iconic figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States and around the world, using nonviolent methods following the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.  

I’d like to share about Dr. King and his involvement in what some people say was what galvanized the Civil Rights movement; the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  This was the event that also launched Dr. King into prominence as a leader in the Civil Rights movement. It has some parallels with the Red Shirt’s struggle for equality and democracy in Thailand.

On the 1st of December 1955, Mrs. Rosa Parks, an African-American seamstress, was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for not standing and letting a white bus rider take her seat.

It was an "established rule" in the American south (at that time) that African-American riders had to sit at the back of the bus. African-American riders were also expected to surrender their seat to a white bus rider if it was needed.

When asked to move to let a white bus rider be seated Mrs. Parks refused. She did not argue and she did not move.  The police were called and Mrs. Parks was arrested. Mrs. Parks later remarked in her autobiography “People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

The black citizens of Montgomery decided to show their outrage at the discrimination and segregation that was taking place in their city and across America by boycotting the Montgomery bus system.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was chosen as the leader of this movement, a position he modestly accepted by saying “Well, if you think I can render some service, I will.”

A meeting was called on December 5th, 1955 at the Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama where Dr. King gave a speech which launched the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Here is that speech.

My friends, we are certainly very happy to see each of you out this evening. We are here this evening for serious business. We are here in a general sense because first and foremost we are American citizens and we are determined to apply our citizenship to the fullness of its meaning. We are here also because of our love for democracy, because of our deep-seated belief that democracy transformed from thin paper to thick action is the greatest form of government on earth.

But we are here in a specific sense because of the bus situation in Montgomery. We are here because we are determined to get the situation corrected. This situation is not at all new. The problem has existed over endless years. For many years now, Negroes in Montgomery and so many other areas have been inflicted with the paralysis of crippling fear on buses in our community. On so many occasions, Negroes have been intimidated and humiliated and oppressed because of the sheer fact that they were Negroes. I don’t have time this evening to go into the history of these numerous cases. Many of them now are lost in the thick fog of oblivion, but at least one stands before us now with glaring dimensions.

Just the other day, just last Thursday to be exact, one of the finest citizens in Montgomery–not one of the finest Negro citizens, but one of the finest citizens in Montgomery–was taken from a bus and carried to jail and arrested because she refused to get up to give her seat to a white person. Now the press would have us believe that she refused to leave a reserved section for Negroes, but I want you to know this evening that there is no reserved section. The law has never been clarified at that point. Now I think I speak with legal authority–not that I have any legal authority, but I think I speak with legal authority behind me–that the law, the ordinance, the city ordinance has never been totally clarified.

Mrs. Rosa Parks is a fine person. And, since it had to happen, I’m happy that it happened to a person like Mrs. Parks, for nobody can doubt the boundless outreach of her integrity. Nobody can doubt the height of her character, nobody can doubt the depth of her Christian commitment and devotion to the teachings of Jesus. And I’m happy, since it had to happen, it happened to a person that nobody can call a disturbing factor in the community. Mrs. Parks is a fine Christian person, unassuming, and yet there is integrity and character there. And just because she refused to get up, she was arrested.

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.

We are here, we are here this evening because we are tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known throughout Montgomery and throughout this nation that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.

And certainly, certainly, this is the glory of America, with all of its faults. This is the glory of our democracy. If we were incarcerated behind the iron curtains of a Communistic nation, we couldn’t do this. If we were dropped in the dungeon of a totalitarian regime, we couldn’t do this. But the great glory of American democracy is the right to protest for right. My friends, don’t let anybody make us feel that we are to be compared in our actions with the Ku Klux Klan or with the White Citizens Council. There will be no crosses burned at any bus stops in Montgomery. There will be no white persons pulled out of their homes and taken out on some distant road and lynched for not cooperating. There will be nobody among us who will stand up and defy the Constitution of this nation. We only assemble here because of our desire to see right exist. My friends, I want it to be known that we’re going to work with grim and bold determination to gain justice on the buses in this city.

And we are not wrong; we are not wrong in what we are doing. If we are wrong, the Supreme Court of this nation is wrong. If we are wrong, the Constitution of the United States is wrong. If we are wrong, God Almighty is wrong. If we are wrong, Jesus of Nazareth was merely a utopian dreamer that never came down to Earth. If we are wrong, justice is a lie, love has no meaning. And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I want to say that in all of our actions, we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve. And don’t let anybody frighten you. We are not afraid of what we are doing, because we are doing it within the law. There is never a time in our American democracy that we must ever think we are wrong when we protest. We reserve that right. When labor all over this nation came to see that it would be trampled over by capitalistic power, it was nothing wrong with labor getting together and organizing and protesting for its rights. We, the disinherited of this land, we who have been oppressed so long, are tired of going through the long night of captivity. And now we are reaching out for the daybreak of freedom and justice and equality.

May I say to you, my friends, as I come to a close, and just giving some idea of why we are assembled here, that we must keep—and I want to stress this — in all of our doings, in all of our deliberations here this evening and all of the week and while, — whatever we do —, we must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions. But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.

The Almighty God himself is not only, not the God just standing out saying through Hosea, “I love you, Israel.” He’s also the God that stands up before the nations and said: “Be still and know that I’m God, that if you don’t obey me I will break the backbone of your power and slap you out of the orbits of your international and national relationships.” Standing beside love is always justice, and we are only using the tools of justice. Not only are we using the tools of persuasion, but we’ve come to see that we’ve got to use the tools of coercion. Not only is this thing a process of education, but it is also a process of legislation.

And as we stand and sit here this evening and as we prepare ourselves for what lies ahead, let us go out with the grim and bold determination that we are going to stick together. We are going to work together. Right here in Montgomery, when the history books are written in the future , somebody will have to say, “There lived a race of people , a black people , ‘fleecy locks and black complexion’, a people who had the moral courage to stand up for their rights. And thereby they injected a new meaning into the veins of history and of civilization.” And we’re going to do that. God grant that we will do it before it is too late. As we proceed with our program, let us think of these things.

Dr. King urged the use of nonviolent resistance.  As King preached during his sermons, “We will meet your physical force with soul force.  We will not hate you, but we will not obey your evil laws.  We will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer.”  King also informed his congregations, “You are shaming them into decency.”  

The boycott lasted for over a year, but in the end it worked and segregation of the bus systems ended.
I certainly encourage the Red Shirts in Thailand to continue to follow Dr. Kings style of non-violent tactics in obtaining justice, equality and democracy. However I am doubtful these tactics would work as effectively there.

First, Thailand is not a democracy, which makes it harder for protests to work.

Second, “shaming them into decency” only works on those who have shame.  The amart/military nexus running Thailand have no shame. 

However, a boycott would send an economic message and an economic message is loud and clear to those who are greedy.

In the spirit of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, I strongly encourage everyone who loves democracy to honor the boycott of all products of the Sahapat conglomerate until April 15th. This boycott was brought to our attention by our friends at The Thai News Team E-News and is also endorsed by the American Orange Shirts (Agents of the Free) as well as our friends at Thai Red Sweden and the Illinois Red Shirts for Democracy.

The Sahapat conglomerate has been openly and actively supporting those who would keep Thailand as a militaristic junta.  This is unacceptable and I encourage all American citizens to join in on this boycott.

In the US, the chief product to avoid purchasing is Mama brand instant noodle products.

For all American expats and tourists currently in Thailand, here is a brief list of products to avoid.

A more comprehensive list can be found here on the Sahapat website.

We will grind the anti-democratic corporate machine known as the Sahapat to a halt then eventually the current Thai dictatorship will crumble.
It is a dream I have.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Abhisit and the Holy Grail

Some of the theater which is Thai politics reminds me of the scene with King Arthur, a woman peasant and Dennis the Peasant in the 1975 Epic Movie “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”  Part of the dialogue went like this:

King Arthur: I am your king.
Woman Peasant: Well I didn't vote for you.
King Arthur: You don't vote for kings.
Woman Peasant: Well how'd you become king then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
King Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king.
Dennis the Peasant: [interrupting] Listen, strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.

There you have it – Profound political insight by Dennis the Peasant when he states that “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses.”  No literatueur, no auteur, no political scientist ever phrased it better. 
Dennis the Peasant

Now I'm certainly no Hollywood screen writer but I bet if Abhisit replaced King Arthur in this scene, then the dialogue would go something like this:

Abhisit: I am your Prime Minister.
Woman Peasant: Well I didn't vote for you.
Abhisit: You don't vote for Thai Prime Ministers nowadays.
Woman Peasant: Well how'd you become Prime Minister then?
[Angelic music plays... ]
In 2006 the army overthrew the democratically elected government. They tear up the 1997 constitution - Thailand's most democratic - dissolve the ruling political party and foist a clearly undemocratic new constitution on the Thai people. No one is allowed to campaign against the referendum that brings in the new constitution and the army organizes the "yes" campaign.
In 2007 another election is held - once again Thaksin's party (now called the PPP) - by some considerable distance - are the biggest winners, winning 233 seats, 8 short of a majority in Thailand's 480 member parliament.  My party is far behind with 166 - we are roundly trounced. The PPP easily create a coalition and form a government under Samak Sundaravej. But the military, who didn't want to see all the hard work that went into the 2006 military coup go to waste, used their hand-picked justices on Thailand’s courts forced Samak's resignation for getting paid to host a cooking show. They then forced out his successor and for good measure banned the PPP.
That still wasn't enough to push me into power, so at night, the leader of the military, General Paochinda , visits several ex-PPP coalition partners at their homes to coerce them to switch sides.  Remarkably, all these MPs conduct a volte face and join my coalition.  And that is how I earned my place as Prime Minister.
Dennis the Peasant: [interrupting] Listen, bloated and corrupt Thai generals deciding what is only good for themselves is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical whims of power mad military fascists.

And there you have it. Art mirrors reality.  

Incidentally, the actual 1975 movie ends when the police arrive, arresting King Arthur for murder.  We can only hope for a similar happy ending in this Thai political drama.

For your entertainment, below is the entire scene with Dennis the Peasant and King Arthur. Of course, here's the standard disclaimer: "The events depicted in this movie are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental." 

 Thailand Needs Democracy!