Posts tagged ‘Nationalism’

July 11, 2015

Nationalism is Thailand’s true religion

Opinion

Nationalism is Thailand’s true religion

3 Jun 2015 at 03:30.

NEWSPAPER SECTION: NEWS | WRITER: SANITSUDA EKACHAI

Please credit and share this article with others using this link: http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/580859/nationalism-is-thailand-true-religion

For the past month, Thai society has been in agreement that it’s only right to push the desperate Muslim Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people back out to sea and let fate take care of them.

On Monday, lighted candles and solemn prayers filled temples nationwide as devotees promised to follow the Buddha’s path to celebrate Visakha Bucha Day. The world is perplexed. How could a country which prides itself as the hub of Buddhism be so cruel?

Every time Thailand hits world headlines – be it because of forced or child prostitution, slave labour, human trafficking, or political violence – the world asks: how could a Buddhist country commit such crimes?

My first reaction is to label the question simplistic. Isn’t it too easy to link one’s professed faith with their actions? Besides, all religions, not only Buddhism, teach love and compassion. And look how people are killing each other in the name of religion.

It’s also a major misunderstanding to think religious people cannot commit violence. The truth is, the more righteous people are, the more likely they are to choose violence as a way to eliminate what they see as sinful. The more religious fervour, the more violence. Examples abound, both here and abroad.

How many Thai Buddhists react to this question is interesting. Here are some reactions:

Why call us inhumane? We’re already housing more than 100,000 displaced people fleeing wars from Myanmar. Now it’s time for you to show your humanity by taking in these boat people; Thailand has limited resources.

We are kind; that’s why we provide them with food and water to help them go where they really want to go because Thailand is not their destination. Isn’t that enough? We are kind, but we cannot shoulder the long-term social problems immigrants bring.

Kindness or the lack of it is not the issue. The boat people influx is not of our making. It’s the legacy of Western colonialism’s divide-and-rule policy. The West must take responsibility.

Why help people who can afford to pay human smugglers to make money overseas?

We are kind, but Muslims are aggressive and have too many kids. They are national security threats who will aggravate problems in the deep South.

We have compassion, but we cannot help everyone suffering in this world. When we cannot help, we must practise Buddhism by using the principle of ubekkha, or equanimity.

Of these responses which are mere efforts to legitimise one’s cold-heartedness, I find the last one the most exasperating.

Fear fuelled by prejudice often drives people to make cruel choices. Life is full of difficult dilemmas; we all know that. We may not agree with that choice, but we can understand it. But to say your inhumanity is backed by the Buddha so that you can still feel good about yourself is, for me, hypocrisy and cruelty in the extreme. It’s also an outright abuse of the Buddha’s teaching.

To the question of why a Buddhist country is full of vices prohibited in Buddhism, may I offer an answer? It’s because we are not really Buddhists. Our predominant creed is nationalism. Racist nationalism to be exact, since our “Thainess” is based on the myth of the pure Thai race. That’s why it’s so easy for many of us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of other ethnicities and races – be they migrant workers, boat people, or Malay Muslims in the restive South.

Another creed we extol is patriarchy and sexism. It’s why the sex industry prospers, polygamy is culturally endorsed, violence against is women widespread, and gender prejudice is unquestioned.

Thai Theravada Buddhism, meanwhile, is fully operating under Thai nationalism and patriarchy. That’s why the clergy is fiercely against female ordination and remains silent amid the boat people crisis.

Buddhism may appear to be the dominant faith here, but widespread temple corruption has severely eroded public faith. The monkhood has been reduced to a social ladder for rural lads. Monks operate mainly as postmen, sending merit to our deceased relatives. Tucked in the comfortable cocoon of luxury and privilege, the feudal clergy has lost touch with the modern world and is too weak to provide a moral compass. There’s no need to look up the Buddhist canon to see if we’re true to our faith. Look at how we treat those weaker than us; that is the true reflection of our hearts.

South. Another creed we extol is patriarchy and sexism. It’s why the sex industry prospers, polygamy is culturally endorsed, violence against is women widespread, and gender prejudice is unquestioned. Thai Theravada Buddhism, meanwhile, is fully operating under Thai nationalism and patriarchy. That’s why the clergy is fiercely against female ordination and remains silent amid the boat people crisis.

Buddhism may appear to be the dominant faith here, but widespread temple corruption has severely eroded public faith. The monkhood has been reduced to a social ladder for rural lads. Monks operate mainly as postmen, sending merit to our deceased relatives. Tucked in the comfortable cocoon of luxury and privilege, the feudal clergy has lost touch with the modern world and is too weak to provide a moral compass.

There’s no need to look up the Buddhist canon to see if we’re true to our faith. Look at how we treat those weaker than us; that is the true reflection of our hearts.

Sanitsuda Ekachai is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Please credit and share this article with others using this link: http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/580859/nationalism-is-thailand-true-religion

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Comments:

  1. Khun Sanitsuda, I am considered very privileged to be able to read and understand fully what you have written. Do you have any plan to spread this message across our country in Thai? I feel that every Thai in this country also need to read and understand what is happening.
  2. Khun Sanitsuda, since most of us westerners already know this (wonderfully written piece by the way) THIS should be printed in ‘Thai’ newspapers! It’s your own people who needs this wake up call. I’d hate to see this great article go to waste for us, when we already know this. Send it off to all the nationalists of whom you mention. THEY are the ones who need to read this. But then again, Thais are infamous for never being able to accept the truth, so sadly, it’ll fall on deaf ears, I’m sure.
  3. The Dalai Lama has tried for over 12 years to get Theravada Buddhism removed from the World Buddhist Council because it promotes personality cult and the pursuit of personal wealth instead of following the true Buddhist creed. This would mean Thailand, Taiwan and Sri Lanka going it alone; seems the Council do not want to lose so many members (so much for them then).

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February 9, 2011

Nationalism fuels Thai-Cambodian conflict

Cached:  http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/MB09Ae01.html

By Julie Masis

PHNOM PENH – As fighting on the Thai-Cambodian border dragged into a fourth consecutive day, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to the international community to take his side.

In a letter to the United Nations Security Council, which was read out on Cambodian television, he reported that Thai forces fired artillery shells as far as 20 kilometers into Cambodian territory and urged the UN to hold an urgent meeting “so as to stop Thailand’s aggression”.

On television he declared, “If they stop, we stop. If they fight, we fight.”

The 1,000-year-old Preah Vihear Temple, the United Nations World Heritage Site at the symbolic root of the border conflict, was damaged in the fighting, Cambodian media reported. Cambodian websites published photos of the damaged structure.

About 2,000 families have been evacuated from their homes near the Thai border in Cambodia’s Preah Vihear Province and are now staying in schools and pagodas further away from the fighting, said provincial deputy governor Suy Serith.

The Cambodian government as well as the Red Cross and non-governmental organization Oxfam distributed rice, noodles, soy sauce, water, blankets and mosquito nets to the evacuees, Serith said.

However, the villagers who had been forced to leave their homes for the second time since fighting erupted were eager to return home where they left much of their property, including pigs, chickens and cows that needed to be cared for, the deputy governor said.

“Maybe tomorrow or after tomorrow they will come back [home]. They are listening to hear [if the troops are still] fighting or not,” Serith said. “They want peace, they don’t want war.”

In Cambodia’s capital, the situation was calm, with schools, shopping malls and banks open for business. At the Ministry of National Defense, soldiers in uniforms lounged around in the afternoon drinking coffee in an outdoor cafe; higher-ranking commanders sipped Chinese tea in their offices. However, no one was authorized to speak to reporters about the situation.

Border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia also remained open, as both tourists and traders continued to travel between the two countries. The newspaper reported that last month 25% more Thais visited Cambodia than in January of 2010, due in part to a visa exemption which was introduced late last year. The value of trade between the two countries increased to US$2.56 billion in 2010, from $1.67 billion in 2009, and Cambodian exports to Thailand actually rose 176% during the same time period.

Nationalistic Thai groups, who have called on Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down, have called on their government to close down border trade in protest against seven Thais who were arrested in contested territory in January. Two of those arrested have been charged with espionage and were last week sentenced to long prison terms.

In Phnom Penh, the only sign that something was amiss were the police officers stationed in front of the Thai Embassy.

Yet some people were concerned the conflict could widen and impact on business and tourism. Two middle-aged ladies, both of whom had lived through Cambodia’s civil war and the Khmer Rouge regime, were worried that the situation could get worse. Both are members of a group called Working Group for Peace in Cambodia, which was formed in the summer of 2008 when the Preah Vihear Temple conflict with Thailand started. The group is now holding almost daily meetings to discuss ways to put a stop to the conflict.

The working group – along with its counterpart organization Working Group for Peace in Thailand – recently drafted a resolution calling for peace, which they plan to send to the press, members of the government and the Thai embassy. In the resolution, they explain that the real cause of the fighting is not the ancient temple on the border, but “the internal political conflict in Thailand and the politicians’ attempt to divert [attention] to nationalism” using the Preah Vihear temple as a target.

“This is [about] nationalism. This is a political issue,” said Prok Vanny, a Cambodian member of the group.

The resolution also urges both sides to withdraw their armed forces as quickly as possible and to use non-violent means to resolve conflicts. Using the border problem for political purposes “will gradually lead to a serious war that will be more difficult to bring to an end,” the resolution warns.

Last year, The Working Group for Peace in Cambodia organized a joint gathering in Cambodia’s tourist town of Siem Reap with 30 participants from Thailand and 30 from Cambodia. But the tensions between Cambodia and Thailand – which is known in Cambodia by its old name “Siam” – go back centuries.

In the 15th century, the Thais sacked Angkor, then the heart of the Khmer Empire. At the end of the 16th century, the Cambodian capital of Lovek fell to the Siamese and in the 18th century, the Siamese burned Phnom Penh. When the French first arrived in Cambodia in the 19th century, the Cambodian king was a subject to the king of Siam. During World War II, Thailand annexed several Cambodian provinces.

Many people in Cambodia today still harbor a distrust for Thailand, which they say took much of Cambodia’s territory over the centuries. “Thais are robbers. Thais stole many things from Cambodia. Thais want something that is not theirs,” said one student in Phnom Penh. “It’s not their temple, it’s our temple.”

But the Working Groups for Peace in Thailand and Cambodia want to temper such nationalistic feelings before they spiral, as they have in Thailand.

“We want to eradicate the hatred between the two nations because it’s been there for many centuries. We want to build a good relationship so we can shake hands and treat each other like brother and sister because we are neighbors,” said Prak Sokhany, a Cambodian member of the group. “It’s our long-term goal.”

Julie Masis is a Cambodia-based journalist.

(Copyright 2011 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved.

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