After the 2006 military coup that sent Thaksin Shinawatra into exile, the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy argued for closing the country’s borders in response to international criticism.
The country, the PAD argued, needed to shut its doors to foreigners while it cleaned house and eradicated the scourge of Thaksinomics and those that were disloyal to the crown.
Many people scoffed at the idea but hardcore PAD supporters held onto the notion with many of these same arguments surfacing again during the People’s Democratic Reform Council protest in 2013/14 – the same protest that led to the Prayut Chan-ocha coup.
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, we finally have an inkling of what it would look like to shut down the country’s border.
In short, economic disaster. Without tourism and international trade, our industries and services sector has withered. Our GDP contracted by its largest margin ever in 2020 fueled mainly by shut borders and a lack of international arrivals.
What must be said is that the brain trust of the PDRC and the PAD that argued for shutting borders wanted to subject our country to these economic ravages willingly in the facile hope of “cleaning house” and “reeducating the population.”
Think of the economic suffering that we are witnessing currently because of this pandemic. Think of the spiking suicide rates, the families falling below the poverty line, the countless hospitality jobs lost, the countless businesses closed, because of our country closing its borders to fight the pandemic.
Now imagine a group of people so hellbent on ideological zealotry that they would subject the country to these ills voluntarily.
Perhaps it is time that we as a collective whole unsubscribe from the dogmatic pursuit of purity demanded by those so loyal to the cultural and political institutions that demands such zealotry.
Thailand must evolve into a 21st century country. Our situation demands it, our people demands it and our collective future demands it. We are situated on the Southeast Asian crossroads, caught between competing superpowers and ideologies. We cannot afford to cling so steadfastly to the past without considerations for the future.
While it is important to understand where we come from, it cannot dominate our future so thoroughly that it undermines our progress.
There are people who would tell you that being Thai means relinquishing all identity but those that are subservient to the feudal system where power is concentrated in the hands of a few.
Those are the same people that would have so willingly led us to our destruction.
It is time we move away from dogmatic beliefs and allow pluralism, debate, introspection and, yes, questioning of what it means to be Thai.
Until we do that, until we allow that, we will always be on the bring of self-destruction. And we will be led by people who think that through privilege and access, that they know better than the rest of us.
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