Civil Disobedience (อารยะขัดขืน)

11 06 2008

The PAD’s civil disobedience campaign starts today. Their campaign could lead to the halting of water, electricity and bus services.

Bangkok Post reported Suriyasai Katasila, a PAD coordinator, as saying that “Members of the public should feel confident about joining the campaign because they have the legal right to reject any government policy that they deem illegitimate…Civil disobedience is not a violation of the law and everybody has the right to be part of it…The degree of civil disobedience can vary from the softest to the strongest, but it still stands by the principle of non-violence.”

How well do we know about this concept of “Civil Disobedience”? A quick search from Wikipedia has it defined as “the active refusal to obey certain laws, demands and commands of a government, or of an occupying power, without resorting to physical violence. It is one of the primary tactics of nonviolent resistance. In its most nonviolent form (known as ashimsa or satyagraha) it could be said that it is compassion in the form of respectful disagreement.”

Civil disobedience is one of the many ways people have rebelled against unfair laws. It has been used in many well-documented nonviolent resistance movements in India (Gandhi‘s social welfare campaigns and campaigns for independence from the British Empire), in South Africa in the fight against apartheid, in the American Civil Rights Movement, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stand against the Nazis (1929-1945), and in peace movements worldwide. One of its earliest massive implementations was by Egyptians against the British occupation in the nonviolent 1919 Revolution.

The American author Henry David Thoreau pioneered the modern theory behind this practice in his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience, originally titled “Resistance to Civil Government”. The driving idea behind the essay was that of self-reliance, and how one is in morally good standing as long as one can “get off another man’s back”; so one doesn’t have to physically fight the government, but one must not support it or have it support one (if one is against it). This essay has had a wide influence on many later practitioners of civil disobedience. In the essay, Thoreau explained his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican-American War.

This was not the first time the PAD threathened to carry out a campagin of civil disobedience. It was one of their strategies in 2006 to oust the former Prime Minister Thaksin too. It would be intersting to see how the government under the leadership of Samak will handle this situation. He definitely can not fight in this war alone. Will we see another coup soon to give a break to all the mess? If that happens, it could be the end of Thai democracy. Will this give a way for a new election, a new government – election that still be won by former Thai Rak Thai, government that still be ruled by behind-the-scence leader name Thaksin Shinawatra?


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