Ethics/Nonkilling/Regional/Thailand

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  • This Course is based mainly on Professor Chaiwat Satha-Anand (Thammasat University, Thailand) paper Advising Leaders on Nonkilling Politics: Lessons from inside the National Security Community, Thailand prepared for the First Global Nonkilling Leadership Forum, Mu Ryang Sa Buddhist Temple, Honolulu, Hawai‛i, November 1-4, 2007. The Course is part of the Program on Nonkilling Leadership Development at the School of Nonkilling Studies.


Almost a decade ago, I wrote an article explaining why it has been necessary to teach nonviolence to states (Satha-Anand, 1999). There I discussed my experiences with the Thai state when it began to show interest in nonviolence as seen from a number of workshops the National Security Council organized on nonviolence, trainings offered to government officials around the country, and the establishment of a most unique committee, perhaps the only one in the world, the Strategic Nonviolence Committee (SNC), within the National Security Council of Thailand, with the Prime Minister as the Council chairman. The SNC, chaired by a former deputy secretary general of the Thai Na-tional Security Council, is a group of people comprising academics, senior NGOs, and some security officials. Among other things, its task is to come up with nonviolent alterna-tives to cope with rising conflicts for the Thai state, through advising the Prime Ministers. In 2003, the SNC advised the Thai Prime Minister to mobilize government sectors with nonviolence in preparation for the impending violent conflicts between the Thai state and the people. The result was the historic Prime Ministerial Order 187/2546 on “Managing Conflict with Nonviolence Policy.” This brief paper begins with a description of this order, followed by outlining lessons learned from advising the government on nonviolence. It concludes with a discussion of how promoting nonviolence from within the security community crystallizes the notion of nonviolence as nonkilling politics.

Prime Ministerial Order 187/2546[edit]

On August 14, 2001, the then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinnawat approved a proposal: “Mobilizing Effective Nonviolence in Thai Society,” put forward by the Strategic Non-violence Committee, National Security Council. The proposal consisted of two compo-nents: an official declaration of adopting nonviolence as a national strategy and a Prime Ministerial Order aiming to implement the strategy. The Grand Strategy aims at na-tional security construed as attempt to prevent conflict from turning violent and to nonviolently transform conflicts. Its objective is to enhance trust between the state and the citizens and to reduce prejudices that have adversely affected relationships among different peoples in the country.

On September 1, 2003, the now deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinnawat signed the Prime Ministerial Order 187/2546 called: “Managing Conflict with Nonviolence Policy.” Reading the future of the country as ridden with various types of conflict es-pecially between the state and the people, it argues that there is a need to reevaluate the ways in which conflicts in Thai society have been dealt with since they have not pro-duced a peaceful and just society where everyone is happy. To continue to use violence would bring about hatred and disunity among the people. The use of violence by the state to deal with conflicts, therefore, would engender extremely high social costs, which would in effect, jeopardize national security.

PM Order 187/2546 maintains that it is the way(s) of life of different peoples who are citizens of the Thai state that needs to be protected; and that protecting and strengthening the ties that bind them together through nonviolence is a national secu-rity innovation needed for a new world facing various types of conflict. It categorically states that “government agencies must give priority to implementing this ‘Managing Conflict with Nonviolence Policy.’ But most importantly, perhaps, are its three main principles which serve as the Order’s theoretical grounds. They are:

  • In coping with conflicts, nonviolence is the only way that is just and would en-gender sustainable peace. It begins with the state and government officials.
  • The attitude which forms the basis of nonviolence is to reduce prejudices and no hatred to peoples who are different. They must not be seen as ene-mies, but instead as friends in a shared life of suffering. The end of nonvio-lent means must be just. The state must accept some burdens for the sake of national security and sustainable peace of the people.
  • The atmosphere and theatre conducive to creativity in order that learning and developing appropriate approaches to conflict in Thai society, informed by pools of local wisdom, must be based on the idea that “cultural diversity and differences of ideas are Thai society’s sources of power.” This will, in turn, increase nonviolent alternatives in dealing with conflicts.

These three principles hide three elements extremely important for the constitution of non-violence policy. They are: inherited nonviolence legacy; local cultural treasures; and political will. Principle no.2 of PM Order 187/2546 has three components: no hatred of anyone; the use of nonviolent actions must be in service of justice; and Thai government officials who follow this Order must be willing to accept self suffering instead of inflicting pain and vio-lence on those who oppose the state. As a matter of fact, this principle is based on a thinly hidden Gandhian legacy of nonviolence. Gandhi once explained that there are four condi-tions necessary for the success of Satyagraha. They are no hatred, just cause, accept self suf-fering, and prayers (Gandhi, 1948:61). Principle 2 embodies three of these four conditions.

In proposing nonviolent actions and to make global nonviolence work, I have al-ways found it important to look for local elements conducive to the specific context I have to work within. Contrary to mainstream security discourse where differences are often times seen as security threats to a country, principle 3 of the PM Order maintains that cultural diversity is a source of national strength and that there exists sufficient lo-cal wisdom conducive to nonviolence policy and practices on Thai cultural soil. If the Gandhian heritage is the ground on which the PM Order 187/2546 stands, and if Thai cultural realities are the local potentials necessary to make this Order work, then Principle no. 1 embodies the political will which maintains that nonviolence is the direction this country must take for a sustainable national security. I would argue that the uncompromising nature of the statement in Principle no. 1, “In coping with con-flicts, ‘nonviolence’ is the only way that is just,” is at once unprecedented and extremely challenging to both those who are against the use of nonviolence and those who have worked hard to nonviolently transform the world, especially in terms of national policy.

Lessons[edit]

One of the first few questions often raised about this unusual episode of nonviolence security policy of a country is: why did the Prime Minister who is known for his accep-tance of the use of violence accept the proposal by the SNC in the first place and, more importantly, sign this historic PM Order? I would say that nonviolence security policy in Thailand has come this far not because the leaders understand and accept it, but be-cause they either don’t understand it or don’t believe that it could pose a threat to tradi-tional security, both in terms of its theoretical grounds and effectiveness. Moreover, in my experiences, the work for nonviolence policy from within the security is extremely difficult because of two reasons, among others. First, the degree of resistance to non-violence policy options depends on changing political contexts. In a democratic setting, if the politicians believe that violent options will be more acceptable to the majority, they will not be hesitant in toeing the voters’ line. Second, the idea of nonviolence secu-rity policy is radically different from conventional security discourse. Officials working on security would either try to accommodate nonviolence as a form of their more fa-miliar discourse such as psychological warfare or public relations efforts or to relegate it to marginal importance within the security community. There is therefore a constant need to educate them on nonviolence.

But in recent years, I have found that nonviolence security policy that seems to be ac-ceptable for the state has been primarily based on nonkilling. This is perhaps a result of the dynamics of a contemporary working state, understood as the embodiment of physical vio-lence—epitomized by its monopolization of the use of killing, in the context of increasing democratization and the globalized gaze. By arguing that killing its own people will com-promise the legitimacy of the state in a situation where conflicts are on the rise, the space for accepting the proposal on nonviolence security policy understood more and more by the state as nonkilling within the security community has been critically expanded.

References[edit]

Satha-Anand, Chaiwat (1996). Teaching Nonviolence to the States. In Tehranian, Majid, Ed. Asian Peace; Security and Governance in the Asia-Pacific Region. London; New York: I.B.Tauris, pp. 186-196. King, Mary E; Miller, Christopher A. (2006). Teaching Model: Nonviolent Transformation of Conflict. Ad-dis Ababa: University for Peace, Africa Program. Gandhi, M.K. (1948). Non-Violence in Peace and War, Vol. I. Ahmedabad: Navajivan Publishing House. Prime Ministerial Order 187/2546 on “Managing Conflicts with Nonviolence Policy.” Bangkok: Strategic Nonviolence Committee/Institute, National Security Council, n.d. [A published pam-phlet; In Thai]. The number 2546 is Buddhist Era or 2003 A.D.