The linkage system at The Bangkok Post is nearly impossible, so I will simply print the following letter-to-the-editor in full. If you want to confirm it, you are welcome to sign up to their membership system and search for "Democracy at High Noon":
The headline news of a 48-hour ultimatum to Thaksin to leave his position as prime minister, even a caretaker one, reminded me of the classic film High Noon with the final scene of a duel at noon between Marshal Gary Cooper and the Outlaw. Under the current scenario, the difference is that the one without legal backing is viewed by some and most media as the good side, while the one with legal backing is viewed as the outlaw. The righteousness of our society is now being tested.It's good to know that, even in distant Thailand, Gary Cooper still rides tall in the minds of men. High Noon was cited occasionally during the Iraq war debate, I recall, with Bush in Cooper's role -- trying to get a reluctant France and others to live up to their obligations under UN Security Council resolution after resolution, while dealing with the sneers of Iraq's henchman, Russia.
Similarly, the photo of the long line of demonstrators marching along Silom Road reminded me of Robert Browning's story, The Pied Piper of Hamelin. After the town mayor having broken his promise, the Pied Piper took revenge with his musical charm by leading the town's children to a cave, the entrance of which was subsequently blocked forever by a landslide. Are we leading to that fate with sweet incitements from the Pied Piper, PAD?
Similarly, the "due-process-review" of the "wrongdoings" of Thaksin and his family at Sam Luang, outside Government House, at CP Silom Road and in front of the Singapore Embassy reminded me of scenes of a kangaroo court in so many cowboy films, in which the accuser one-sidedly accuses the 'defendant' and calls for the man to be hanged, with a chorus response for the same from the crowd. The only difference now is no life is involved and only a man's character: "Get out, Thaksin".
I blame Thaksin for allowing such a scenario of wastage and vacuum to develop, by being arrogant and making a number of enemies on the way up and missing the opportunity of getting the opposition to join in the election when given a last chance by the opposition.
He should have known at that time he had nothing to negotiate and should have signed on the blank space provided by the opposition's draft of commitment, but instead pettily required the other parties to recognise his position and change the name of the document. I blame the leading opposition parties for being Machiavellian in encouraging others with no legal position to manage and control the events, hoping for a jump-start on the political gains while others do the dirty work. They are ignoring the legal framework of the constitution which they played a part in drafting.
I blame those "do-gooders" for going to an extreme just to get personal satisfaction to pay back Thaksin for his past authoritarian deeds against some of them.
I remember a professor I had once telling me about a famous paper, whose name and author I cannot now recall, that argued that the Gangster film was so successful in Cold War America because it was the only film genre that was allowed to express real tragedy. During the Cold War, the paper held, it was necessary for Hollywood to show the American way of life as being glorious and given to happy endings -- so it was argued, in a faraway time when Hollywood could be envisioned as aiming at the glorification of America. The gangster film was the only exception to the rule that all films had to have happy endings: because the gangster was a criminal, he was allowed to be miserable.
There's probably something to the argument; it is doubtless that the best two films of their age were the first two Godfather movies. They were great precisely because they were tragedies, and as Aristotle held, tragedy is the highest form of drama.
That aside, it is not the gangster but the Western to which we keep looking back for answers about how to live. No man wishes to live in a tragedy -- not, at least, past the time when he finds that he really is. When sophisticates scorn America as the land of the cowboy, that's worth remembering. We ought to be proud to be cowboys. Every American is entitled to wear the Stetson.
By the way, if you're interested in the situation in Thailand, the Post is a good source even though it makes it almost impossible to find articles posted less recently than today. The other major English-language newspaper is The Nation, which is the subject of some controversy just now.
Whether the newspaper is running an information operation against the Prime Minister is not a small question, giving the scale of the protests and disruption. The original article they are accused of fabricating is here. What The Nation is suggesting may seem ceremonial, but you must remember that Thais revere their monarchy, as Thailand is the only nation in Southeast Asia that was never colonized by any Western power, and their kings saw them through that period in freedom. To be stripped of even a ceremonial post relating to the honor of the King would be a major blow to a Prime Minister.
The fact that we are talking about kings and prime ministers, royal duties and a nation never colonized by the West makes the original letter all the more outstanding, of course. Why, in such a circumstance, would your mind turn to Gary Cooper, the lonely marshal of a dusty town in the American West?
But it does.