National Human Rights Commission | 28.03.07

The National Human Rights Commission is one institution that has not only survived the coup, but whose staff has also been untouched by the Coup Gods’ relentless purge. This no doubt would be taken by those in the propaganda business, both producers and consumers, as further evidence of the Coup Gods’ commitment to human rights, democracy, check & balance, and all the other good things in life. (Of course, they would have to forget momentarily that deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is supposed to have subverted all government institutions and stuffed them with his “cronies”, which was the justification for the purge to begin with. But that should be easy enough for such well-trained practitioners of doublethink.)

Anyway, what does the NHRC concern itself with these days now that the abuser in chief is gone and the country is humanely governed by a military junta?

Why, the problems in the South, of course. Note of the plural. This isn’t just about the daily murders and arsons, said the NHRC, but a whole host of larger problems. In a press conference on February 21, after dutifully commending the coup-installed prime minister, General Surayuth Chulanont, for the “courage” he displayed by apologizing on behalf of the previous government (as opposed to the military that put him in power), the NHRC pointed the way forward:

คณะกรรมการสิทธิมนุษยชนแห่งชาติ อยากให้รัฐบาลแก้ปัญหาภาคใต้รอบด้านมากกว่าที่เป็นอยู่ คือ นอกจากเรื่องความรุนแรง รัฐบาลควรมองปัญหาภาคใต้ในมุมประชาชนส่วนใหญ่ ประกาศนโยบายให้ชัดเจนในการแก้ปัญหาให้คนส่วนใหญ่ เช่น ชาวประมงที่ได้รับผลกระทบจากเรือลากอวน เพื่อขจัดความไม่เป็นธรรม เพราะคนภาคใต้รู้สึกไม่ได้รับความเป็นธรรมมาตลอด ความร่วมมือกับรัฐบาลจึงไม่มี รัฐบาลต้องเริ่มต้นประกาศแก้ปัญหาออกมาให้ชัดเจน ในมิติความรุนแรงแง่เศรษฐกิจ สังคม วัฒนธรรม นอกเหนือจากการขอโทษ

The National Human Rights Commission wants the government to solve the Southern problems in a more holistic fashion. That is to say, besides violence, the government should look at Southern problems through the eyes of the majority [The commission is talking here about the majority of locals rather than citizens at large — its dubious assumption being that local violence is less pressing a problem for locals! – ed.]. [It should] announce clear policies to solve problems for the majority, for example fishermen who face a negative impact from trawlers, to eradicate injustice. Because Southerners have always felt that they receive no justice, so there’s no cooperation with the government. The government must start clearly addressing problems in the matrix of economic, social, cultural violence.

Of all the available villains — Big Oil, free trade, the USA, and global warming, to name just several standard ones — they chose to highlight trawling. This isn’t just a laughably limited issue (remember “majority”?), but also one in which our Southern fishermen are well known not as victims, but aggressors!

The commission redeemed itself somewhat by talking about the more comprehensible “matrix of economic, social, cultural violence” (presumably linguistic violence, which the government has started cracking down on, is included in the last vector.) But still, The NHRC could have saved itself much trouble simply by sticking with the familiar NGO refrains, as Chairman Saneh Chamarik’s message did in his message on the occasion of International Human Rights Day 2005 (in original English):

Individualism and liberalism, together with property rights, once historically, very well did serve as a means to promoting and protecting human rights. But it all now turns against them. And that makes human rights, as social learning process, a good deal more complicated and somewhat beyond understanding for common people. For all the material prosperity and consumerism coming along with globalization and economic growth so-called, human predicaments keep worsening. Unbridled individualism and free market ideology, as supreme and exclusive virtue of contemporary capitalism equipped with technological superiority, turn humankind into mutual distrust, intolerance and discrimination. Hence mutual destruction becomes the norm of the day! One cannot but help suspect that there is a certain inter-relatedness and interaction between current globalization and the phenomenon of terrorism. And each obviously works against human rights and dignity.

Now that’s more like a list of “root causes”. Individualism, check. Liberalism, check. Prosperity, consumerism, and economic growth — check, check, and check! Globalization as the equally evil twin of terrorism, emphatic CHECK!

Don’t you think, however, that Chairman Saneh is just a mindless parrot. For one thing, he deserves credit here for driving home what others only dare imply — that human rights are “complicated” and “beyond understanding for common people”. Yes, we simple souls need constantly to be reminded of our right to be lorded over by our betters. O, Comrade Sangharaja, I bow to thee.

His Righteousness also made clear that the secular faith brooks no separation between church and state, between the personal and the political, or between merely meddlesome activism and unapologetic power grab. It’s all so very… holistic.

The two set of human rights, civil and political liberties and economic, social, and cultural rights, come to be increasingly and holistically integrated. On top of traditional individualism, various forms of collective rights come to be increasingly exerted: minority culture, indigenous peoples and communities, and what not [sic]. New areas of human rights also come within the purview of those peoples and communities concerned: ecosystem, natural resources, traditional knowledge and wisdom for instance [Don’t forget reality TV, – ed.]. All this extension and proliferation of human rights is the new phenomenon.

Totalitarian, elitist, pro-coup, and anti-Thaksin. The question here isn’t why the Coup Gods didn’t disband the NHRC, but why it didn’t give it more power.

(Answer: there are too many totalitarian, elitist and pro-coup and anti-Thaksin operatives out there whose impacts are far greater. Those need to be rewarded first.)

13:29 ▪ politics

« There’s “pro-democracy”… | Main | Saprang to shoot “dog” with machine gun »