LET’S put it this way: If ridding Thaksin Shinawatra’s cut-out portrait of wintergreen thorns, resetting monks’ overturned alms bowls and using a holy knife to “remove” his (Thaksin’s) sins really works, we should be able to enjoy a state-of-the-art global TV network courtesy of our historic birthday boy real soon.
Two worlds kissed on Sunday. It started with extraordinary and extensive rituals – which made us wonder how “heavy” one’s karma has to be to require such a staggering superstitious package – and ended with the announcement of an estimated Bt1 billion telecom project for the Thai people free of charge. For the “Knight of the Third Wave” (as Thaksin was once called) to fulfil his new digital ambition, we of course need to eradicate the thorns, reposition the bowls and bless the knife for the magic to work.
Surely, Thaksin must regard his global TV network plan as a merit-making exercise, since, if it is politically motivated, we will need to kill more wintergreen (rakam) trees and more monks’ bowls will have to be turned upside down and reset.
Two of the three planned TV channels do sound noble: One will seek to promote Thailand’s rural products and the other will serve as a quality tutoring resource for Thai students. This would be a nice payback to his motherland – although Thaksin has always been adamant that he didn’t have to pay those taxes.
The third channel, which purportedly will air “reality shows” on Thailand’s poverty, is what lands us in the grey area. What is there for “poverty” to show off to begin with? With a little effort, we can close our eyes and imagine how it feels to be broke, debt-ridden and hungry all the time. It’s harder to understand, though, why some people need to carry a Bt1 million handbag or use a Bt20,000 towel.
The real big surprise is neither Thaksin’s global TV plan nor his crooning “I’ll be back”, but apparently his renewed financial strength after rumours that he was down to his last “hundreds of millions”. The announcement of the TV scheme could mean that either the British government did not seize his Manchester City-related cash as alleged, or the seizure failed to affect him financially.
A rich man’s TV station for the poor sounds nice if it teaches ways to turn Bt1,000 into Bt10,000 or promotes new phad Thai or tom yam recipes. That station would be far worthier than 100 reset alms bowls or tons of purged wintergreen thorns put together. That’s our wish, though, because a more plausible scenario has the TV station running one programme after another about how lives are worse off without one man and would be better off with him.
However, what if Thaksin’s luck doesn’t change? What if one of the most collective fortune-altering attempts in Thai history falls short of reversing his fate? What if someone somewhere decides that, although Thaksin spent Sunday morning sending out unconditional messages of compassion to his enemies and all beings in the world, his current suffering has to continue?
The TV project may be delayed, or cancelled. Or it may be meekly launched and have a short life. (What will be its business formula anyway? If it is meant to be a charity undertaking, is Bt1 billion enough?)
We can live with the consequences of the failure of Sunday’s ceremonies, even though that could mean we would miss the chance to see what a Bt1 billion charity TV project looks like. We will have a far bigger problem if thorns, bowls, photos attached to a coffin and clods of dirt gathered from eight directions can really change a man’s destiny.
Thaksin’s future, as we know, is too intertwined with that of many other people and it will be absolutely unfair to decide the others’ futures through Sunday’s rituals. The “champion of democracy” of all the people should not have missed the point. What will be the use of the sacred ballot box if a few monks armed with some obscure ritual objects can change the course of history?
We have always been told not to look down on superstition. One day or another, they say, you may turn to it as a last resort. Desperation calls for desperate measures, and if you watched Thaksin sing “I’ll be back” on Sunday, you probably know the depth of his despair.
What’s unsettling is the scale of Sunday’s events, which made the whole issue look so undemocratic. Can karma be removed only if you are rich, popular or powerful enough? Perhaps the first programme of his “Poverty Channel” should address this question immediately. Afterwards, whatever is left to explore can be picked up by his “Education Channel”. And then, who knows, the “Local Products Channel” can trigger an export boom for our wintergreen.
By Tulsathit Taptim
Published on July 29, 2009