Break Out of the Illusion: Pushing for Genuine Democratic Reform in Thailand (Part I)

Thursday, 13 February 2014 11:06 By Kasit Piromya, SpeakOut | Op-Ed
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One of my aides sent me a clip of a recently aired Super Bowl advertisement. In it, Laurence Fishburne reprised his role as Morpheus, who, instead of the red and blue pills, this time offered blue and red keys for a couple to choose from the parking valet. The woman picked the red key and thus had a new experience that completely changed their perception of the luxury car.

Now, I am not being paid to endorse any product nor am I trying to trivialize something as important as democracy by equating it with a premium sedan. But the much parodied scene very much reflects the current situation in Thai politics. For the people have chosen the red pill or key, which has given them the ability to see through the façade, a house of cards, erected by Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

Fed up that the government could not pay a dime for their hard-earned harvest, because of loopholes that encourage massive systematic corruption in the rice pledging scheme, the farmers took to the street. Fed up with the government's breach of trust to reconcile the nation, secretly pushing through an amnesty bill that will grant wholesale absolution to convicted politicians, the people took to the street.

We want to make a point that if you want to break through the Matrix, this illusion of democracy, then we need a fair and transparent electoral system devoid of interference and violence.

That is also why I and fellow members of the Democrat Party felt it justified to boycott this THB 3-billion election. We did not stop anyone from exercising their rights, but we want to make a point that if you want to break through the Matrix, this illusion of democracy, then we need a fair and transparent electoral system devoid of interference and violence – frankly in the past the Democrats could not campaign in certain provinces because of death threats.

The people's fight is a demand for electoral reform and accountability from the government. We do not wish to see the country plunge further into the abyss. For we will be stuck in a black hole where totalitarian abuses of power will be accepted under the guise of democracy, where one man reigns with complete disregard for check or balance.

I do not wish to paint a dark and dystopian picture for the sake of scaremongering, I shall leave that to Thaksin Shinawatra's proxy Red Shirts, nor am I dreaming up a utopia, but this is the reality. In modern Thai history, I have never seen any other parliamentary majority defy and defile the rule of law by brushing aside the judiciary and other independent anti-corruption bodies as if they were some flies, a nuisance, as they made a mess of the country.

So what shall we do now? Like Neo in the film, we may have doubts and may have even been deceived by the distorted reality perpetuated by the mainstream media. But we must not lose heart. We must break through from the world that prevents pluralistic civic engagement, a world filled with hatred, a world where a supermajority is announced to be the panacea for all social and economic grievances.

I believe the time is now. It will not be easy as we are being engulfed by the Thaksin machinery, but through patience and open-mindedness, I believe our cause to redefine democracy, as a viable and fair system for all – where all votes are equal and respected – will succeed.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Kasit Piromya

Kasit Piromya is a Thai citizen and former Foreign Affairs Minister.

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