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Thai cultural officials are becoming concerned at the proliferation on the internet of ‘underblurb selfies’ posted by politicians in an attempt to make themselves attractive to voters. 

In these posts, aspiring MPs show pictures of themselves with a knowing smile or a wink.  The captions to the pictures make teasing half-promises or ‘blurbs’ about what they will do for their constituents if elected.  But the would-be politicians are always careful never to display a complete promise (and especially not the ‘nub’ of the promise), which might bring them into conflict with the law.

Yupha Thaweewattanakijborworn, Director of the Culture Watch Office of the Ministry of Culture, recently took time off from her other grave responsibilities in dealing with partly exposed but anonymous female breasts to warn Thai politicians against posting ‘underblurb selfies’.  If many did it, she claimed, it would become a ‘serious moral and cultural problem’, adding that such behavior risked prosecution under the Computer Crime Act.

It is not clear how less than half a promise would contravene the law.  The Computer Crime Act does make it an offence to post ‘false computer data in a manner that is likely to damage the country’s security or cause a public panic’.  It is not clear whether a partial promise can be proved to constitute ‘false data’, though many in the nation’s elite are quite satisfied that any politician’s promise would damage national security.  It could certainly cause a public panic, at least among the elite.

Others believe that the following section, on ‘any computer data related with an offence against the Kingdom’s security under the Criminal Code’, might offer a more feasible prosecution.  ‘The range of actions that can be considered national security offences is already so broad,’ noted one analyst.  ‘They include walking, eating, thinking, giving 3-fingered salutes and reading the wrong kind of literature in public.  I’m sure the courts could easily be persuaded that political promises are also covered.  Especially if they’re military courts.’

Many, however, think that any picture of a politician making a promise, however veiled, would be viewed by the courts as ‘political pornography’ and likely to attract the full severity of the law.

The Culture Ministry, which seems to be leading the campaign against this latest internet fad, ascribes to the view, widely held among elite circles, that elections are evil and antagonistic to true democracy (as it is understood in Thailand) (by the anti-democratic elite).  The reason is that anyone who stands for election, and especially one who stands and wins, automatically becomes a ‘politician’ and therefore inherently untrustworthy, self-serving and corrupt.

Strenuous measures are therefore needed to ensure that politicians have a minimum of power, and what little power they do have must be subject to rigorous oversight by an unelected senate, the unelected so-called independent agencies, an unelected but pro-active judiciary, and ultimately, the unelected military.  Since none of these bodies are elected, they are naturally the preserve of Good People.

The draft constitution is being carefully constructed to ensure that politicians have minimal influence in how the country is run.  For example, independent agencies whose work is supposed to benefit the people, such as the National Human Rights Commission, will be merged into oblivion, whereas a plethora of new agencies is being introduced, such as the proposed National Ethics Council, with the specific brief of monitoring, limiting and penalizing the activities of politicians.

If the unelected Good People, through any of the agencies that they control, decide that a politician or political party is acting in a way that threatens national security (i.e. the privileges of the military) or the national interest (i.e. the privileges of the economic and social elite) then a variety of methods are available for getting rid of them.  The people will then be allowed to elect another bunch of crooks until they too can be removed from office on some grounds or other.

Some have questioned why the half-exposed promises of political candidates should be subject to strict censorship when the current unelected government makes explicit full-frontal promises all the time, and especially on Friday evenings, and gets away with it.  Some have concluded that this is yet another example of double standards.

Nothing could be further from the truth, according to an official from the Culture Ministry, who drew an analogy with the difference between pornography and art.

‘Underblurb selfies appeal to the viewer’s worst instincts in just the same way as X-rated videos,’ she said.  ‘But the promises of the current government are as pure-minded as a famous work of art that happens to depict the naked human form; the Venus de Milo, for instance.’

So that means they’re equally armless.

About author:  Bangkokians with long memories may remember his irreverent column in The Nation in the 1980's. During his period of enforced silence since then, he was variously reported as participating in a 999-day meditation retreat in a hill-top monastery in Mae Hong Son (he gave up after 998 days), as the Special Rapporteur for Satire of the UN High Commission for Human Rights, and as understudy for the male lead in the long-running ‘Pussies -not the Musical' at the Neasden International Palladium (formerly Park Lane Empire).


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