REACHING OUR NEW LOW: The utter hypocrisy of the pardon petition

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A WOMAN wearing a red shirt got on a crowded “hot bus” (as opposed to the air-conditioned “cool bus”) in Bangkok one afternoon. She looked around and spoke up: “Anyone here signed the pardon petition for Than (The Eminence) Thaksin?”……Silence

You must sign the petition,” said the woman, the volume of her voice rising along with the level of discomfort of the passengers who shared the bus ride with her.

“I do not care what will happen to this country; I do not give a hoot about any harm it can cause to this country or to anybody, but Than Thaksin must return,” she started yelling, apparently in a state of fierce agitation. “We must bring him back,” she continued. “Do you hear? We must bring him back.” By now, everybody else on the bus wished they were not there.

Hush.

“Anybody having a problem with that,” she asked heatedly and defiantly.

Not a word.

At that point a girl in her thirties decided to get off the bus; she had a problem with that.

Many of us, especially those who remain on the fence – not yellow, nor red – have a problem with that.

First, the legality of the petition itself is in question. At the outset, it was designed to be a petition for a royal pardon for the fugitive former prime minister. Then it metamorphosed into simply a petition or appeal for His Majesty’s kindness and benevolence to be extended to the former prime minister, period.

If the latter is the intended purpose, those who initiated and launched the petition drive should understand that we are no longer living in the Sukhothai era, when King Ramkamhaeng (1279-98) hung a bell in front of a palace gate so that subjects with grievances could ring it to get his attention, and seek solutions to their problems. Thailand was then an absolute monarchy, as much as it is now a constitutional monarchy. As such, there are provisions in the constitution that stipulate the legal boundaries of His Majesty’s authority. This petition or appeal of the red shirts falls under no purview of those provisions, and therefore no action by His Majesty is legally warranted or sanctioned.

If the petition is intended to seek a royal pardon, it would be asking His Majesty to commit an illegal act. The law governing the royal pardon states clearly that a royal pardon may be granted only if and when the convict has already served his or her time for the crime committed. The former prime minister has never served a day in jail, and therefore is not legally qualified for a royal pardon.

Then there is a bigger, or rather “heavier”, problem. The petition initiators and enablers claim that between 4-5 million people have “signed” the “two-page” petition – but no (supposed) signatories seem to have seen the petition or known exactly and specifically what it said.

Each petition actually contains three pages. The first page is the signed photocopy of the citizen identification card of the signatory; the second and third pages are the content of the petition with the signature of the petitioner at the bottom. One million pages of A4 paper weigh about four tonnes. If one multiplies this by three (for a three-pager), then by five (five million signers), the total weight of the petitions will be about 60 tonnes. That weight could easily cause the collapse of the Imperial Department Store Building where the D Station is housed, where the majority of these petitions are supposed to be stored.

If they are, in fact, kept elsewhere, it would be quite a task to haul the entire load together for final collection and submission. The whole affair renders a new meaning to the term a “weighty” situation. And how many DD club cards – entitling holders to a lot of freebies – handed out during the campaign were needed for this 60-tonne heap?

Morally, it is even more problematic.

The antecedent of a pardon, even in the United States – the beacon of liberal democracy, is remorse, and not entitlement. The former president Bush decided not to grant Scooter Libby a parting presidential pardon in spite of an almighty lobbying push from vice president Cheney. Bush, by his own account, was bothered by Libby’s lack of repentance.

The former prime minister and his supporters claim that crimes were never committed by him, and that he was the victim of vicious political manoeuvrings by the “elite” of Thai society.

If there is no crime, let alone the lack of any compunction, why the need for a pardon? It makes no sense.

Then, the sponsors and leaders of the petition drive accused those who oppose the campaign, and those who attempt to impede it, of driving a wedge between His Majesty and his people. A serious look at the logic of this accusation is needed here.

Shouldn’t the “honour” of being a wedge-driver be placed upon the initiators of this petition campaign themselves, and not on those who try to stop it? Isn’t it hypocritical and self-serving that this very same group of people who condone and even encourage vicious and intemperate attacks on the monarchy are now pronouncing their reverence to the very same institution they have tried to shred, and from whom they are now trying to force an action in their favour?

Isn’t this a case of wanting to have your cake and eat it too – in the extreme?

Legend has it that, during the time of the Lord Buddha, Ongkulymal was a most feared manhunter who sewed around his neck the fingers of those he beheaded so he did not lose count. One day he saw the Lord Buddha, who would have been his 1,000th victim, and ran after him with the intent to kill. Despite having extremely strong muscles and possessing superhuman physical strength, Ongkulymal found it impossible to catch up with his prey. Out of desperation, he shouted, “Samana, stop! Samana, stop!”

The Lord Buddha answered, “Ongkulymal, I have stopped. It is you who have not.”

Enough hatred, anger, myopic vision, selfishness and viciousness have spread through in our society. Now it is time to stop before we descend to a new low of madness.

By Pornpimol Kanchanalak
Published on August 6, 2009

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