Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Buddhist Plea to End Killing in Thailand • 2 experts debate: grassroots movement or attempted c'oup? • Clear context from Walden Bello at FPIF

Violent fighting has subsided. But the injustices and grievances precipitating class conflict in Thailand remain.

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) issued a plea to end violence and for government and workers to engage in respectful and peaceful conflict resolution:
Public Statement – A plea to put an end to massive killing in Bangkok: All Lives are Sacred: A plea to put an end to massive killing in Bangkok

Since the beginning of the demonstration by the United front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka “Red Shirts”, on 12 March 2010, there have been many hundreds of casualties. In the past five days, attempts to disperse the demonstration in Ratchaprasong have become been violent, with a further effect of provoking violence. The government’s actions have so far failed to deter the demonstrators.

The present clash of political views is one of the great crises in Siam’s modern history. The country was previously acclaimed for settling conflict peacefully and democratically. Now it appears that both sides, the government and the UDD, are clinging to an illusion of victory over another. The entire nation is hostage to their conflict. Buddhist wisdom is relevant for those absorbed in hatred, greed and delusion. The Dhammapada, Verse 201 says:
Victory breeds hatred, for the conquered is unhappy. Persons who have given up both victory and defeat, the contented, they are happy.
The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), representing a diversity of socially engaged buddhists from around the world, is gravely concerned about this standoff. We wish for all parties address the conflict with reason and tools of peace, to recognize the ancient Buddhist wisdom that neither the so-called winner nor loser will be contented and happy. We encourage those who do not fall into one of the two camps can help this process wherever possible. Only through peaceful negotiation and dialogue can all parties concerned return the country to its true nature as a flourishing democracy and a peace-loving nation.

Our heartfelt plea is for both parties to stop any act that may cost lives and injuries; to reclaim the time-tested wisdom of reconciliation and nonviolence.

Whenever INEB can help bridge the gap between the opposed parties we are willing to do all that we can.

We trust that in the light of upcoming international Vesakh celebrations in Thailand, supported by the United Nations 22-26 May 2010 and the subsequent local Vesakh celebrations, commemorating the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of the Lord Buddha, all parties will unite in taking responsibility for their conduct and for bringing about lasting peace, transformation towards social justice and shared well being for future generations.

To close, in Verse 5 of the Dhammapada the Buddha proclaims:
Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By love alone is hatred appeased. This is an eternal law.
International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)

Patron, Advisory Committee and Executive Committee Name Lists


His Holiness the Dalai Lama,Tibet
Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, France/Vietnam
Venerable Phra Rajpanyamedhi, Siam (Thailand)
Venerable Bhikshuni Chao Hwei,Taiwan


Sulak Sivaraksa, (Founder Chair), Santi Pracha Dhamma Institute, Siam,
Raja Dharmapal, Dharmavedi Institute, Sri Lanka
Jill Jameson, Buddhist Peace Fellowship Australia
Dharmachari Lokamitra,Jambudvipa Trust, India,
Ven. Tsering Palmo, Ladakh Nuns Association, Ladakh/India
Phra Maha Boonchuay, Mahachulalongkorn University, Siam,
Phra Phaisan Visalo, Buddhika Network for Buddhism and Society, Siam,
Bhikkhuni Dhammananda Songdhammakalyani Monastery, Siam
Venetia Walkey, Dhamma Park Foundation, Siam,
Ven. Pomnyun Sunim, Jungto Society, South Korea,
Rev. Alan Senauke, Clear View Project, USA,
Ven. Sumanalankar, Parbatya Bouddha Mission, Bangladesh,
Hisashi Nakamura, Ryukoku University, Japan,
Rev. Masazumi Okano, International Buddhist Exchange Center , Japan
Swee-hin Toh, University for Peace, Costa Rica,
Frans Goetghebeur, European Buddhist Union, Belgium,


Harsha Navaratne (Chairperson), Sewalanka Foundation, Sri Lanka,
Hans van Willenswaard, GNH Program, Netherlands, (Vice Chairperson), School for Well Being,, Siam
Somboon Chungprempree (Interim Executive Secretary), Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), Siam,
Douangdeuane Bounyavong, Buddhists for Development, Laos,
Hsiang-chou Yo, Fo Guang University, Taiwan,
Jonathan Watts, Think Sangha, USA/Japan
Anchalee Kurutach, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, USA,
Poolchawee Ruangwichatorn, Spirit in Education Movement (SEM), Siam,
Pipob Udomittipong, Sathirakoses-Nagapradipa Foundation (SNF), Siam,
Ros Sotha Buddhists and Khmer Society Network, Cambodia,
Mangesh Dahiwale, Jambudvipa Trust, India,
Prashant Varma, Deer Park Institute, India,
Erica Kang , Jungto Society, South Korea,
Minyong Lee, South Korea
Eddy Setiawan, HIKMAHBUDHI, Indonesia,
Matteo Pistono, Nekorpa and RIGPA Fellowship, USA
Tashi Zangmo, Bhutan
Vidyananda (KV Soon), Malaysia
Harn, Burma/Myanmar
It's been impossible for those of us on the outside to discern what is really happening in Thailand. Obviously the Red Shirts are poor and desperate. Many are exploited and abused migrant workers. Obviously, the Thai government has been repressive.

Two experts have very different views about the political-economic nature of the conflict. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! moderates a debate between KJ contributing editor Phil Cunningham, a former resident of Thailand, and Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a Thai dissident:
In Thailand, the government has rejected an offer by anti-government protesters to enter talks after a bloody week in Bangkok that has left at least thirty-eight protesters dead. Some fear the standoff could lead to an undeclared civil war. The protesters are mostly rural and urban poor who are part of a group called the UDD, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, more commonly known as the Red Shirts.

We host a debate between Giles Ji Ungpakorn, a Thai dissident living in exile in Britain who supports the Red Shirt movement; and Philip Cunningham, a freelance journalist who has covered Asia for over twenty years.
"The Long Winding Red Road to Ratchaprasong and Thailand’s Future" written by Cunningham for Japan Focus and this article "Thailand: What Would End the Violence in Bangkok?" by Ungpakorn posted at The Monthly Review further explain their opposing takes.

Walden Bello's "The Battle for Thailand" posted at Foreign Policy in Focus brings context and clarity to this tragic class conflict:
Nearly a week after the event, Thailand is still stunned by the military assault on the Red Shirt encampment in the tourist center of the capital city of Bangkok on May 19. The Thai government is treating captured Red Shirt leaders and militants like they're from an occupied country. No doubt about it: A state of civil war exists in this country, and civil wars are never pretty.

The last few weeks have hardened the Bangkok middle class in its view that the Red Shirts are "terrorists" in the pocket of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. At the same time, they have convinced the lower classes that their electoral majority counts for nothing. "Pro-Thaksin" versus "Anti-Thaksin": This simplified discourse actually veils what is — to borrow Mao's words — a class war with Thai characteristics...

But the main push will come from the people themselves. Thailand, it is clear, will never be the same again. A taxi driver summed up where things stand at this point: "The Bangkok rich think we are stupid people, who can't be trusted with democratic choice. We know what we're doing. So yes, they say Thaksin is corrupt. But he's for us and he's proven it. The Bangkok rich and middle classes see us as their enemy. If they think we're finished, they should think again. This is not the end but the end of the beginning."

FPIF columnist Walden Bello is a member of the House of Representatives of the Philippines and author of "A Siamese Tragedy: Development and Disintegration in Modern Thailand,"(London: Zed, 1998).

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