Saksith Saiyasombut: Get out from under your coconut shell and vote

Saksith Saiyasombut: Get out from under your coconut shell and vote

When even the Thai prime minister is urging people to vote for the “least worst persons,” you know things are rotten. But that's no reason not to cast a ballot

It doesn’t look good for democracy right now. Thai politics have never been this messy. And that's saying a lot.

Two extra-parliamentary opposition groups have taken matters onto the streets, we have an embattled prime minister who seems to be only good at talking, political parties promising populist policies that bring only instant gratification and institutions that are not supposed to be politicized are being politicized. 

Indeed the general uncertainties of today’s times are discouraging many Thais from going to the polls this Sunday, July 3. 

There’s even an anti-election movement, urging the electorate to mark their ballots with Vote No (since voting is compulsory) to protest against the current system and what its supporters feel are corrupt politics.

But what should come in place of that? One can empathize with the undecided voter, having the choice of "not-so-good" or "even worse."

When even Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva calls the people to vote for the “least worst persons” you know things are very rotten in this country.

So will the newly elected government ring in a new dawn for the kingdom? Will the real call of the people be heard? Will the youth finally stand up and demand accountability from the people ruling their lives?

To sum it all up, will anything good come out of this election?

Probably not. But there are still a few things worth fighting for.

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What the recent tumultuous years of Thai history have shown is that slowly but steady a new political consciousness among the people has emerged, along with an interest to influence those decision makers in the capital. 

But why has this been so slow to come about? For one, we Thais are taught to stay out of things that are not our business, even if they have direct consequences for us.

We are not taught to question ourselves and those who supposedly bear the knowledge.

We are not taught to strive for knowledge by ourselves. And we are certainly not given a chance to break out of the ranks to find ourselves. 

What has this to do with politics, you may ask? Well, if you do not question those in power, if you do not demand accountability from their words, if you do not fact-check them and confront them when they are wrong, then they will keep on doing the same thing over and over again, leaving them with the feeling that they have done everything right.

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Much has been said about reconciliation. But reconciliation does not mean we have to forget and move on. It means we need to reflect on past mistakes, to understand the other side, to acknowledge things that might irk us and then to take all this into consideration to move on without making these mistakes again.

But that has not been the case yet, because many are willing to forget in order to receive instant gratification from their elected officials, whether in form of populist policies, a new gadget or some other quick thrill.

What we need is foresight, so that everybody -- most importantly the younger generation -- can profit. 

We, the young, bright and angry, are on the verge of becoming a lost generation because, thanks to new technologies and influences, the modern definition of "Thai-ness" does not match the traditional one and the self-proclaimed heralds of Thai culture are trying to hold back its progress as far as they can.

But such resistance against inevitable change is not sustainable. There’s a Thai saying that talks about a frog living under a coconut shell. For him, the world under this shell is huge. But of course in reality the world outside the shell is much bigger than the frog can even imagine.

So, to those who try to hold us back: just let us out of our coconut shell. Hell, you can even crawl out with us. But let us strive to attain knowledge by ourselves and make our own mistakes so we can correct them by ourselves. 

If you go to the booth this Sunday, no matter who you vote for (or no one at all), no matter if you believe in the current system or not, consider this.

What will come after this system? How willing are those controlling it going to be to listen to us; are we even going to be able to get out from under the shell? 

The opinions of this piece are solely those of Saksith Saiyasombut. Saksith is a Thai blogger and journalist based mainly in Hamburg, Germany but is currently in Bangkok covering the election and its aftermath. 

After working briefly for a Bangkok-based English newspaper, he burned all bridges and started his own political blog in 2010, only then to join the Thailand-centric group blog Siam Voices at