nakchi: (chu {j-st/vivi})
[personal profile] nakchi
[mood | content]
[music | ภาษากาย -- Potato]

Before I wade into the heavier material in this post, I just want to point out this Lao pop blog. IT IS A GODSEND. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any places to actually get the mp3s to the videos there and I'm too lazy to rip all the youtube videos, but hey, it's a start. :D

This is my new favourite site: New Mandala: New perspectives on mainland Southeast Asia. (Dreamwidth feed for anyone interested. Anyone willing to make me an LJ feed?)

I fully admit that I don't know a lot about any of the Southeast Asian countries, despite my interest in them, and that I am especially ignorant of life and politics in all the countries that aren't Thailand. This site is by no means the only place from which I should be gathering my information, but it's very interesting and very instructive and it's a great place to go for social and political commentary that goes beyond the new coverage found in most Western media. Allow me to highlight some articles from the past month (which are mostly going to be about Thailand, given that I am most familiar with that):

How hardline have the redshirts become?
Regarding the political evolution of the red-shirts and recent anti-monarchy sentiments. I found this bit in particular alarming:
'The red shirts need a new way. The old way was like the saying that you raise a pig and fatten it only to see it slaughtered,’ one of the leaders said. The other said: ‘There are three realities now – the majority of the red shirts are anti-monarchy; they don’t believe in a peaceful struggle; and they need a new kind of leadership and organisation.’

I have no problem with moving past a monarchy, although I seriously doubt that's the central issue here; even if the monarchy were toppled completely, you'd still have a rich, social elite running the show, or trying to. Getting rid of the monarchy is not going to help bring stability to Thailand, and there are a number of countries with constitutional monarchies that run just fine. Thailand's monarchy is much like those: the king doesn't actually have that much political power. He's not involved in politics. He has very little to do with the governing of the country. He's more a symbol and a unifying figure than anything else, which is why (until recently) I generally found anti-monarchy sentiment a bit amusing, and the concern over anti-monarch activists taking over ridiculous. It's almost entirely unrelated to Thailand's political problems. What does alarm me is the change in sentiment away from a relatively peaceful movement. I understand that peaceful protests haven't appeared to do much to bring equality to the political spectrum, but even if violence gets them a new government, it's unlikely to produce positive results. For one thing, war is costly in terms of both human lives and human resources. The aftermath will probably leave the rural poor poorer than ever, and any political change that results from turmoil is not going to be stable.

From the archives: On traditional Siamese kingship
"In old Siam the king stood alone, without equal, without near equal... The king lived in such thorough isolation from ordinary folk that he often knew little of what was going on in the kingdom, and therefore usually did not interfere. His strength also was limited by the counterbalancing power of provincial governors and local lords, for he often had to fear their revolt. Although the history of Thailand records no instance of popular uprising, it records frequent instances of usurpation by palace coup. The king had to step carefully through the maze of palace intrigue and faction and listen closely to the sentiments of officials and aristocrats."

Just a quote to prove my point about the king's role in politics. Not a lot has changed in this regard since Thailand first became a constitutional monarchy in 1932. XD

A voice from Burma: “I feel helpless”
"As I was watching [people be refused the right to vote], an old lady behind me whispered: 'Which parties are contesting in this township? Which one should I vote for?' When I turned around to face her, a Hindu woman in her 20s standing behind the old lady nodded her head in silent agreement. 'Yeah, me too. I don’t know anything about the election, I have no idea how to vote,' she said. I was stunned and momentarily could not find the words to reply to them. In my mind, I was speaking a lot: 'Oh my God, they are queuing to vote but they have no idea which party they should vote for.' [...] Later, when it came my turn to draw the voting paper from the election commission staff, I found my name was spelled wrong on their voting list. Silently I prayed they would still let me vote. It felt like I had to wait an eternity as they discussed my fate but finally they handed over the ballot papers."

"In my own township, the despised USDP candidate is believed to have leapfrogged the two democratic candidates who were leading, following personal intervention from the Mayor of Yangon. It's fair to say 36 parties, and probably close to 29 million voters, are disgusted, ashamed at what's happened. Personally, I feel helpless. For a brief period, one short evening, I thought things were changing for the better in my country. Once again, those hopes have been dashed. I am reminded of what my dad told me a few weeks ago: 'Why vote? The USDP have already won.'"

He ends by saying that even some of the people who chose not to vote in the first place are disgusted by what's happened and are getting involved -- but he can't see it meaning anything for the future. And if it's another twenty years before the next set of elections, he's absolutely right, because everyone will have forgotten by then. Not that public involvement or election turnout means anything when the candidates who oppose change "leapfrog" the others.

I want to emphasise that while I tend to be very opinionated, I always welcome constructive discussion. :) If you think I hold a wrong view, please discuss it with me! I am eager to learn. Or I'd like to think I am.

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December 2010

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