Even though democracy is not considered the most perfect political OS (operating system), it is the easily-updated OS which is different from dictatorship as it is the OS unable to be updated.
Secret weapon of Thai dictatorship is to compare former chaos with peaceful present to slowly convince people to feel good about what they have now.
Sole authority and peace are only the illusion contracting to the fact that there are many unsolved problems in time of dictatorship.
Dictatorship system and Thai politics has prolonged relationship. This is the truth we would like to deny, but cannot escape.
If democracy is the essential destination of the country, instead of making a frustrated complain about why Thailand is not being democracy, we want to ask you to reverse your thoughts with the latest research conducted by Asst.Prof.Dr.Prajak Kongkirati, Faculty of Political Science, Thammasat University for more than 6 months conscientiously studying and collecting samples of dictatorship system in Singapore, called ‘A Tales of Three Authoritarianism’.
Even though, this research has not completed yet, what he has been studying should create us the much clearer picture of dictatorship system.
Why do we need to understand dictatorship?
“There is a repeated saying that an 80 plus years old Thai democracy is still a failure. In fact, this sentence has been a false saying from the start. It has not always been a smooth path for a married couple like Thai society and democracy but, involving several divorces.”
Dr.Prajak started to answer with the reference to false understanding which we all have long been inculcated. He also added that
“After a long study of democracy, I finally reached the dead end with the answer to “why Thai democracy fail? Conclusions from several specialists which have been barely different are such as Thai culture do not support democracy as it is a patron-client system not believing in equality, some may use the word unfavorable soil texture; our cultures are different so planting imported democracy here is not working, some always say that the economic disparity is too big do it is hard for democracy to grow in such society with big gap between the rich and the poor or some explain that Thai is unique leading to the necessity of its own specific form of government.”
“Because of circled and unmovable answers, I therefore looked for new research question; I looked at the other side of coin. Instead of focusing on why 84 years old Thai democracy has failed, I changed to why dictatorship is successful here by comparing 3 eras of authoritarianism; Sarit- Thanom, Suchinda and at present.”
“People always misunderstand that dictatorship is peace, stability with predictable practice. In fact, the heart of dictatorship is unpredictable.”
Constitutions = dictatorship’s tool to create acceptance
One thing Dr.Prajak has discovered is Thai dictatorship attaches itself to constitutions in every era. It is also the reason why there have been many constitutions in Thailand. After the completion of coup d’etat, the first thing dictatorial government must do is tearing up the former constitutions to draft the new ones.
“Some may tease that constitution drafting is one kind of industry as there are someone’s lives depend on drafting service like writing tripartite fictions.”
The reason why is that constitutions is a tool used by dictatorship to create such acceptance towards various nations.
“Thai society has never been closed society like Burma. Thai dictatorship is the system that is always trying to have relationship with the outside world. We as a closed country like Burma will go broke; the leaders or people involving in coup d’etat as we can no longer depend on agriculture without trade with the outside world. Once you are trying to create the legitimacy with foreign countries, you should show them the civilized system without absolute sole authority but with legitimate government.”
In addition, constitutions will support dictatorship to maintain long-term government with not too much pressure. With constitutions, there will be a top-grade excuse towards its own people and the outside world.
“People always misunderstand that dictatorship is peace, stability with predictable practice. In fact, the heart of dictatorship is unpredictable. Supposing you want to discharge the governor, you can go ahead. It is the natural of dictatorship.
“Nobody fancies impulsive and unpredictable boss because all subordinates will be afraid and not sure when to be discharged. Therefore, dictatorship wanting to maintain long-term government and get accepted from their subordinates needs to arrange some principles or regulations.
“It doesn’t mean there will be regulations that respect people’s liberty and rights just like regulations set under democracy constitutions. It will surely be dictatorship constitutions, like China or Russia, offering more power to the leader and less freedom for medias or people. However, it is still essential as a reference at least made with people and the outside world.”
The comparison of former chaos and stable present, the secret weapon of “massage-used dictatorship”
Dr.Prajak mentioned that one of secret weapons often used by current dictatorship and regularly effective is the comparison of the former chaos and the present to slowly persuade listeners to go along leisurely.
“I think this system is interesting because what they are always doing is they will not mention what they do alone without referring to what happened in the past, for example, would you go back to a fight like before? Do you like that? Where is the damage now? The country is at peace. It is to show that the present may not be perfect but it is better than before, right?
“The theory explains that some dictatorship systems often claim its legitimacy from the comparison to the past. They know their limit in management with not-so-good economy. Thus, to create effective legitimacy is to tell that they are at least better than the previously collapsed system. I would like to call it a “massage-used dictatorship” as they will leisurely massage your thoughts until it reaches the point of you obeying them. This is because it is the least damaged way.”
“I believe that good society should not only aim for a peace. Supposing a peace is the only aim necessary the most for coexistence, North Korea would be the most pleasant society in the world”
The sky-high cost that is paid for the peace
After the ongoing political chaos, it is normal for people to yearn for a peaceful society. It is considered the important selling point of current dictatorship system.
However, the peace people long for may come with the sky-high cost. It depends on if we are ready to make an exchange.
“If there is a question asking what the good society is, not mentioning political issues, I believe that good society should not only aim for a peace. Supposing a peace is the only aim necessary the most for coexistence, North Korea would be the most pleasant society in the world because there will be no conflicts, no interruptions from medias, no protestations, no people making any outcry. How come when thinking about North Korean, there is nobody want to live there.”
“It means there must be more than just a peace. It is what you know that you will need to live in good society with good education, freedom to express not only in political issues but to give opinions, to show your respectful identity, medias’ rights or people’s rights. Do you want to live in society where government officers suddenly knock on your doors and kidnap your husband? These situations surely happen in dictatorship around the world; China, Russia, Iran or even, Vietnam.”
Sole authority of dictatorship may be required by many people as it comes with promptitude to solve problems related to the peace in society. However, Dr.Prajak looked at them as the illusion because many problems have been hidden under the carpet convincing us to understand that everything is under control.
“The problem of sole authority is that this kind of power cannot solve long-term or structural problems. if Thai society is sick, there must be several basic causes taking us at this point. Nevertheless, sole authority is like an opium; it provides strong effect, restrains the pain and creates a sudden happiness. One day when you wake up, you will realize those basic causes about economy, society, disparity, education or ineffective government system still haven’t been resolved. Now, we are pleased to root for who will be discharged. Is it really solving the problems?”
Singapore Model, Thai people’s misunderstanding about the dictatorship
When there is an issue about dictatorship, the example Thai people often mention is Singapore where the image of dictatorship has been shown with less liberty than other democracy countries. Nevertheless, its economic growth has been remained ahead of neighboring countries resulting in the name of ‘Singapore Model’.
“After spending time in Singapore as the researcher for 6-7 months, I’ve come across that Thai society has always imagined the wrong equation about Singapore Model where there are development and good economy without depending on the democracy. We should understand that Singapore is not a 100% democracy but, they are not a dictatorship like we’ve noticed as well. Singapore is not military dictatorship. In fact, they are dictatorship by political party who are also from election.
“The reason of Lee Kuan Yew party’s regular winning in election, in spite that before stepping into each control, he must compete with other parties and some people may accuse him of spending all budget for his own benefit, is because of his good works; building good communication system, good education and especially, Government Housing policy causing his popularity. Managing these 3-4 things successfully will win people’s hearts. On the election day, people will vote for this party because they have proved with their effective works. That is why they have always won. Is he the dictatorship from mutiny or citizen abuse? The answer is no. They are the party who have been successful in election for a long time.”
Even grey color is separated into various tones, dictatorship or democracy has no difference. The important thing to do is being able to differentiate each dictatorship in order to handle such system cogently.
“If we cannot differentiate various tones of dictatorship, we won’t understand the dictatorship’s operational approach. There are many types of democracy, so are dictatorship. The easy way to tell the difference is to look at who possess the power the most. China is considered the dictatorship by political part and it is the same in Singapore. Unlike North Korea, the dictatorship is run by the family.”
“We have to understand that OS or operation system of each political system is different. Thailand is under military dictatorship so, the comparison to China or Singapore is mismatched.”
“We are using operation system or OS which was already abandoned from the world. We chose to use and have expected it to work causing a high level of friction. This is because the rest of the world has been moving on to another OS.”
Thailand is the only military dictatorship left in the world.
“At present, we are the only country in the world under military dictatorship control”
“There were a lot before because the peak moment of military dictatorship was in 1970. There were 20-30 countries especially in Latin America such as Chili, Brazil, Argentina or even South Korea and many more. In the past, it was considered a popular trend.”
Coming back to present time, the system which used to be popular 46 years ago has been slowly disappeared from the world’ map.
“The reason of disappearance is because of its inefficiency. Besides inefficiency, it also blocks off liberty and rights which both aspects do not provide proper answers. In China, even though there is a block to liberty and rights, there is an ability to develop economy. It is the model of dictatorship by political party having intelligent technocrats support the economic management. The more we get into globalization, the more countries worldwide need political and government system to penetrate modern economic system management. The military dictatorship is the reversion of this leading it gradually to extinction.
“It is easily saying that we are using operation system or OS which was already abandoned from the world. We chose to use and have expected it to work causing a high level of friction. This is because the rest of the world has been moving on to other OS, even Burma, who already realize how ineffective this system is, realizes the need of adjustment.
If people’s thoughts are to be altered and think the same, nobody is different and those thoughts are corresponded to the country’s, there will be no such thing as politics. There will be only the government with tamed citizens living like robots.
Why dictatorship has not been expired from Thai society?
Since this kind of system is obsolete in many countries have, have you wondered why the military dictatorship is still effective in Thailand? The answer is…
“There are 2-3 tools to maintain its control; first is to control using raw power or fear which is considered the most basic tool but, not last. Nobody fancies of being oppressed all the time. Once there are no more other choices for people, there will be a protestation to discharge the system.
“Therefore, the second tool is needed which is you have to manage the country well driving economy to moderate level. It is to make people feel that even they don’t own liberty or rights, they feel convenient towards other aspects in their lives. However, this tool is still delicate because when the economy is collapsed, life is not as good as before and the management is failed; people would claim for another system. like in Indonesia, the 31 years in control of Soeharto was discharged by protestation because of the economic crisis.
“The third tool is the most profound to help the system maintain the longest. It is to control political ideology which is you can control people’s thoughts; people see that your government is the best choice for society despite the economic failure or derogating the rights. If people’s thoughts are to be altered and think the same, nobody is different and those thoughts are corresponded to the country’s, there will be no such thing as politics. There will be only the government with tamed citizens living like robots. In this case, you will be governed in a long term.”
In political science, either dictatorship or democracy is not something more than just one type of government system involving both advantage and disadvantage. If you can choose, which system in society you want to live in?
Don’t answer just yet, let’s hear out Dr.Prajak’s idea towards 2 types of government system.
“I don’t think that democracy is the perfect one. Neither is dictatorship. For political scientists, there is a very simple meaning to government system; they just talk about different types of it just like the political OS.
“Now, the reason why I believe in democracy more is that there was a proof and experiment to it in many countries around the world. It is an OS with potential in adjustment more than dictatorship especially, the most underdeveloped OS like military dictatorship.”
Even though the democracy is not currently the most perfect system, its advantage is that it can be improved to be better which is different from dictatorship where there can be no further improvement.
“You cannot expect them to be who they are not. No matter where the soldiers come from to govern, the country must face what it is now. Most soldiers have been trained to think mainly of security and all the rest come after. So, the soldiers look at everything through lens of security. Pokemon Go can be a threat to security. If you are a business man, Pokemon Go may be business opportunity. If you are a teenager, Pokemon Go is the recreation. If you are a soldier, would you look at Pokemon Go as a threat to security? They are trained naturally to protect our safety.”
“Therefore, when we apply military dictatorship as political system, this is what you will get. You cannot expect what they don’t have including economic effulgence, modern technology or the adjustment to the outside world while democracy is more flexible as shown in many countries. Dictatorship can create peace but with a sky-high cost in exchange. Such cost is also hidden from us because there is a control over information. we cannot express our problems completely. Despite the peace, the cost has continuously been increased in this peaceful society.”
Finally, even though today we cannot choose which government system we want to live in, we can at least try to learn as much as possible of what we are facing to be able to penetrate and watch out for what will happen in the future as Dr.Prajak has concluded in the end that
“From the crisis in society now, I can see one good point that at least Thai society have learned the defect and mistake in democracy. It is to see that government from election is not always good so, we can recognize the politicians, government or whoever taking people’s power through democracy election need the inspection.
“The thing hasn’t happened yet is that Thai society hasn’t criticized or penetrated the dictatorship equally to the democracy. It is easy saying that Thai society is one of a few countries being positive with dictatorship. When we talk about government from election, we will be alert wanting to inspect.
“When it comes dictatorship, we have reversed to say that let them manage the country, everything will finally be fine. This is what I’ve found weird.”
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