EDITORIAL: Sheer abuse of power

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - Alarming atrocities around Southeast Asia raise the question: What happened to human values?

When one looks at how an elected government in the Philippines is carrying out its so-called war on drugs, which has killed thousands of small-time drug peddlers and users, and wonders about other atrocities taking place in the region, it’s not difficult to come to the conclusion that humanitarian values are seriously missing.

Thailand is no different. We had our so-called drug war that was also popular among the general public who allowed their fear to be exploited by the then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The same is true in the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte.

When these kinds of leaders come in for criticism from members of the international community, they wear the garb of patriotism and wrap themselves with their respective national flag.

Remember Thaksin’s outburst: “The UN is not my father”? A few years later he encouraged one of his deputies to bid for the top UN post.

America is not out of the loop when it comes to peddling this kind of shameless and morally bankrupt policy that plays on people’s fears and anxieties. Donald Trump played up his “Muslim ban” policy during his campaign.

But when the time came to act, the ban on Muslims entering America morphed into a travel ban on some Muslim-majority countries – where his family has no major investment – and cost the US nothing in terms of political and diplomatic capital. In fact, none of the countries whose citizens carried out terrorist attacks on US soil on September 11, 2001, were banned.

Duterte, in the aftermath of criticism from a network of European lawmakers about his bloody war on drugs, immediately played the colonialism card and boasted about his newfound friends China and Russia, both of whom are permanent members of the UN Security Council.

As part of its strategy to counter criticism from the West about the absence of accountability and abuse of power by the government, Manila has decided to strengthen its relationship with Moscow and Beijing.

Bangkok has been doing more or less the same. No one really believes the leaders of these two countries have the interests of their people or their nation at heart with the switch in loyalties.

They should know that it won’t be long before Beijing and Moscow come knocking on their doors and remind them that everything has a price.

Duterte even told the European ambassadors to leave his country in 24 hours, cursing at them and accusing European nations of taking advantage of the Philippines because it was poor.

“You give us money, then you start to orchestrate what things should be done and which should not happen in our country. You bullshit. We are past the colonisation stage. Don’t f... with us.

“You think we are a bunch of morons here. You are the one. Now the ambassadors of those countries listening now, tell me, because we can have the diplomatic channel cut tomorrow. You leave my country in 24 hours, all, all of you.”

Duterte told the press that he and his government were not a bunch of morons. But the way he misled them is an insult to many people’s intelligence, not to say that this is an embarrassment for Filipinos.

The problem with democracy in Thailand is that the public think they can just sit back and the elected representatives will do everything for them. They don’t seem to understand that democracy is not a free ride.

By not actively engaging with the work of the government, the public is letting them get away without accountability. And as long as we continue to ignore these values, the public will continue to be indifferent to whatever action and policy taken, no matter how controversial and bloody these acts may be.

The European lawmakers were only expressing their concerns, and the points they raised were in line with international norms.

Thai officials may not use the same colourful and foul language as Duterte to counter criticism of the coup and its consequences. But neither Bangkok nor Manila can deny charges of abuse of power.