Wednesday, December 03, 2008
mukhriz & thailand
When someone commented a few weeks ago that he couldn't understand why the Malay politicians go bonkers when the 'Malay special rights' are questioned. His logic was, why get so worked up over it when people were merely putting their views forward and not asking it to be totally removed. There should be room for discussion, shouldn't there? Silly government, he said.
I told him I agreed wholeheartedly. Discussion is good, but I added, if you wanted a similar outcry of ridiculous proportions, you only need to say something about the existence of vernacular schools and you will hear the Chinese politicians going bonkers as well.
For one, I've mentioned my take on this before. I do not like the idea of segragating kids as old as 5 (I am sure you've heard of Chinese kindergartens as well) by the language they speak, which most of the time relateds to the colour of their skin. And this goes for all types of segregation - vernacular schools, yes, but also religious schools and institutions of higher learning as well.
I read a rather good article in today's NST, talking about Thailand and how we should be counting our blessings. I am not going to dwell into how they seem to be in shambles while we are arguing about yoga, neither am I going to say how much better off we are.
However, I would like to highlight a couple of points:
Our neighbours' situations are infinitely fascinating to us because of what they are that we are not, or not yet anyway. They have a strong, united and irrepressible civil society movement centred in Bangkok, which involves professionals, students, the media and the middle class. They revere their monarchy to the point of taking lese majeste charges very seriously. They also think representative democracy is pretty much a joke.
Thai academician Ji Giles Ungkaporn, who wrote in 2003 about the Thai non-governmental organisations scene and the problems of democratic representation in its peoples' movements, was blistering in his latest assessment of the situation in Bangkok. Back then he talked about social movements like the Assembly of the Poor, which consisted mostly of the Thai peasantry and rural poor. The assembly sat protesting in front of government buildings for their rights, but as Ungkaporn noted, it was actually educated activists who conducted the negotiations. Leadership was very much elitist, and ultimately the poor could only speak through their votes.
Ungkaporn on Wednesday wrote that it was now "fascist thugs" from the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy who are demanding that their government, democratically elected by the majority of the Thai population, hands over power. "The PAD wants a dictatorship to replace democracy because they deem that the majority of the Thai electorate are too ignorant to deserve the right to vote."
Thankfully, we are not quite like surgeon Noppakoon Lagum, one of those occupying Suvarnabhumi International airport, who claimed: "Rural people have good hearts but they don't know the truth like we do in Bangkok. It is our duty to re-educate them." This is a scary pomposity.
Does this sound familiar?
You bet it does, because that is exactly the mentality a lot of Malaysians share - a lot of URBAN Malaysians, I must add.
When I questioned last year's BERSIH rally, many urbanites pounced on me for my critisism of nothing more than a political march. They said that me being inconvenienced was a small price to pay for 'the cause'. What cause, I asked? Their cause, not mine! Many concluded that I was ignorant and unwilling to pay the price for democracy (or some mumbo jumbo along those lines). I suppose this would be the same people who, if push comes to shove, would be willing to shut down our national airport to get what they want.
These are the same people who supported Anwar Ibrahim's September 16 (failed) project, even though the BN government won the mandate to rule, just 6 months before that. The reason these urbanites gave was because the BN government won the rural votes - and you can't let these simple minded kampung folk make important decisions! Yes, let's allow the urbanites to decide everything for the greater good and complain about fuel price along the way. Who are these kampung folk to decide who should rule? It's for their own good!
Democracy? If you thought March 8, was a sign that democracy was alive and kicking in Malaysia, you have gotta be smoking weed.