Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Thailand On Fire: A few thoughts

Thanks to Maia over at Jizo Chronicles for the following concerning events in Thailand:

The International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB) has just issued a statement on the situation in Thailand. Here it is:


All Lives are Sacred: A plea to put an end to massive killing in Bangkok

International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)

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 wellbeing 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.

Given how many of my students are either from Thailand or lived significant portions of their lives there, this situation feels close to home for me. We have had a few discussions as a class about some of it, but I've mostly skipped bringing in news articles about the daily events there. Being members of ethnic minorities who were mostly just tolerated in Thailand, my students have a complicated relationship to the nation. Some want to go back. Others never want to see it again. Some have a deep hatred of the Thai police and leadership, others speak glowingly of the ailing King who has been on the sidelines during this current conflict. In addition, few of the people in our school who lived in Thailand spent much time in Bangkok, where most of the conflict is occurring right now. However, none of this erases the fact that Thailand was home for years, even decades - and that for many, when they speak of homesickness, it's Thailand they are missing and longing for.

As a Buddhist, I sit with images like the one above, having no idea really what it's like to be that monk. I've faced some difficult things in my life, but the kind of upheaval going on in Thailand right now is foreign to me. Sending metta and peaceful energy seems like a small gesture at best. Writing blog posts also seems like a small thing. Supporting groups like the International Network of Engaged Buddhists might be helpful, but ultimately, as the letter above points out, the people in the conflict will have to wake up from their delusions. Let's offer our meditation practices to them, that enough of the people in Thailand may wake up before too long.

No comments: