We could learn much from a mature democracy


US secretary of state urges Thailand to develop political colour-blindness

During her visit to Thailand last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made some interesting comments about politics that deserve careful consideration by Thai politicians, their supporters and members of the general public.

 “We [the Americans] have learned throughout these years of democracy that the country must come first, that politicians come and go, people win and lose elections, but once the election is over, we should try to get along and try to go in the same direction for the good of the country.

“In our country, when the election is over we try to work together for the good of the country,” she said.

“In many countries the hard-fought political competition continues. They don’t look at each other. They don’t talk to each other. It’s very personal; lines are drawn.”

Clinton even joked about the colours she should avoid wearing while in Thailand.

This country has seen years of political enmity between people of different political colours, namely the yellow shirts and the red shirts, who attempt to attract more people into their camps and create mutual hatred.

We Thais should learn from a democratically developed country like the United States about how to live peacefully with political foes. What Clinton said reflected her political system’s long years of experience as a democratic country that have seen many severe and damaging disputes and divisions between people of different groups, and even a civil war.

Thailand is just in the initial stages of democratic development when compared to the US, and we can learn from the Americans. One benefit of that would be to prevent severe political deadlock that could lead to another military coup or, in the worst-case scenario, a civil war.

We should start by freeing ourselves from any political illusions. Then we should become aware that while we have numerous politicians coming and going, winning and losing elections, there is only one country for us (or at least most of us) to live in until our last hour.

We should be aware that no politician is worth more than a country.

It is unwise to burn your home simply to defeat some other occupant in a dispute. It is better to consider making compromises with your rivals to ensure all people can live peacefully together. This is what you have to live with in a democracy: you cannot get it all, or you will create an imbalance which people who stand to lose by it will not tolerate.

Living peacefully and compromising with political enemies certainly is difficult. But, as the Secretary of State said, politicians have to “try to” get along and work together for the good of the country. There can be differences of viewpoint about policies for the country. However, if politicians are really sincere about serving the country, and not just their backers or voters, they must put the national good first. What is good for the country must be done, and what is bad for it must be avoided.

Clinton also described Thailand’s democracy as “vibrant” and said “sometimes politics is as spicy as the food”.

Talking about the ongoing political crisis, she said: “We know that this will be a set of issues that the people of Thailand have to work out for themselves, but we have confidence in the vibrancy, democracy and stability of your country.”

Diplomatic words or not, Clinton’s statement points to the fact that Thailand’s political conflict is generally viewed as a part of its democratic development.

We have come a long way from the day when a group of Western-educated reformers staged a coup against the palace in 1932 that led to the introduction of constitutional monarchy. We have survived many political crises together, although the current one is the worst ever.

Essentially, it is Thailand’s internal problem and one that requires Thais to look deep down inside themselves to get over this hurdle. We have overcome so much as a nation that we should be smart enough not to let ourselves be influenced by the desire of a handful of people with personal agendas.

By The Nation
Published on July 26, 2009

Exclusive Interview ‘Hillary Clinton’

By Suthichai Yoon and Veenarat Laohapakakul
Modernnine TV
10.15 – 11.00 P.M.
Wednesday 22 July 2009
ON PROGRAM : KhaoKhon-knonkhao ‘special’


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