Better Left Unsaid

Most people who know me even a little are familiar with the fact that I tend to be a fairly open and bluntspoken person. Even where I do not name someone, it is usually not very difficult for people to understand when I am writing about them or my interactions with them, and I am always gratified when people appreciate the concern I have about others and my behavior towards and interaction with them. Not all peoples of this world are so blunt or direct, though this is true for a variety of reasons outside of personality and temperament, and not all people are so foolhardy as I am about being honest even in the face of intense hostility to truth. One example of a people who is not known for their bluntness or honesty are the Thai people.

Of course, when one understands the plight of the Thai people, it is rather difficult to blame them for their reputation for dishonesty. Having lived there long enough to know very well why the Thais do not speak truth to power, I find it particularly cruel when a people are oppressed and then are libeled and slandered for dishonesty when they are merely trying (often unsuccessfully) to practice survival skills in the midst of the insecurity of their corrupt rulers. My experiences in Thailand, while they made me a great deal less sympathetic for Thailand’s rulers and for those who toady up to them, have made me very sympathetic to the plight of those people who do seek to speak up against evil and corruption in a land that has long enshrined both as the foundation of governance regardless of political ideology.

The Thai people (and, it should be noted, foreigners within Thailand, even foolhardy ones) have long been subject to draconian lese majeste laws [1] that forbid any speech against the king (or, in practice, any institution involved in close relationships with the monarchy, like the army for example) on the pain of lengthy jail sentences that are often (though not always) cut short due to royal pardons to provide the reality of harsh punishment of speech and the illusion of mercy and grace on the part of the king [2]. The former, the enforcement of these draconian laws, is to preserve the rather insecure institutions of the royal family, privy council, and army from the slings and arrows of harsh denunciation for their conduct. The latter is to preserve the illusion that the king is a merciful man who is bountiful and generous in giving grace to the unworthy, and above their comments after wrongdoers respond to the punishment of their offenses with the sufficient degree of contrition. For whatever reason (and it probably stems to deep-seated insecurities that resulted from the forcible end of absolute monarchy in 1932 [3]), the Thai monarchy and its elite supporters (and wannabe elite supporters) do not feel as if open discussion of both truth and opinion relating to the whole network of the Thai monarchy and its activities would be conducive to the survival of the Thai monarchy.

Given that actual republican sentiment in Thailand is virtually nil (I have never seen nor heard nor uttered any statements that would support the abolition of the Thai monarchy within Thailand), it seems puzzling that despite great personal popularity that the Thai monarchy and its supporters would be so insecure. Quite frankly, such insecurity and paranoia about one’s position makes everyone who lives in a madhouse a bit paranoid, unless they are blithely (and insincerely) denying that anything is wrong in the first place. I’m not interested in denying realities, no matter how unpleasant they are, given the painfulness of the truths I have had to confront in my own life. The massive insecurity of Thailand’s monarchy and its supporters tends to lead the more cynical among us (myself included) to wonder why such insecurity exists, and what dark truths motivate the fierce desire to silence others. After all, those who have nothing to hide hide nothing, and those who go out of their way to silence others have a lot to hide. The existence and prosecution of such offenses is a clear warning sign that there is dark evil and corruption within the elite establishment of Thailand that refuses to be eradicated in the harsh light of day, regardless of what the supporters of that establishment might claim.

What is remarkable, and a bit disturbing, is that there was a court verdict in Thailand laid down yesterday [4] that put a man in prison for an implied comment about the king, even though the man did not directly refer to the king at all. Given that the Thai people know that discussion of the king in anything other than glowing and laudatory terms is a quick way to a lengthy jail sentence (and foreigners who are too loudmouthed are quickly made aware of that fact as well), the Thai people have developed an impressive array of circumlocutions to talk about the elephant in the room without directly referring to the monarch. Apparently the strain of accepting this highly indirect critique has proven too much for the insecure Thai elite establishment, though, and now even implications that are viewed as hostile to the Thai monarchy in the future will apparently be prosecuted by Thailand’s (corrupt) judiciary. When a subject of obvious interest, obvious importance, and obvious problems cannot even be implied without risk, that puts an intolerable strain on a nation’s honest communications, bringing it to Orwellian levels.

This alarming trend leads me to look at the people of Thailand with a great deal of sympathy. All who care about justice long for truth to be openly said, for we know that injustice can only hide in the shadows as weak men (and women) pretend to be strong and strut around with their chests puffed out while their supporters bully others in fear that everyone will see that the emperor has no clothes and do to them what they did to others. It is difficult to remain gracious in the face of abuse by others, to recognize that those who abuse are broken and insecure people as well who need to be made whole and who need to repent and face up to what they have done, but who deserve to be treated with kindness and love because God created them too, no matter how they have corrupted themselves by rejecting both the grace of God and failing to uphold the justice of God as was their duty as God’s servants and the servants of their brethren in positions of authority. If it continues to be a crime to even imply anything that can be taken as a negative comment towards the king or the royal family or the privy council or to the Army, it will be impossible to have anything that can be remotely understood as an honest conversation. The people of Thailand do not deserve the misery of being forced to lie without the hope of speaking the truth and letting it out in some fashion. What can be done, so long as evil men rule, when the truth cannot even be implied without fear of punishment? There is nothing that a good man can do except for face judgment as a speaker of truth, and to fight all the more sincerely and passionately for justice in a manifestly unjust world.





About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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