From MICT: Thai students learn about democracy

[Below is another interesting cartoon from the LINE account of the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. It is one in a series attempting to teach Thais how to be patriotic and resist populism.

The story illustrates how Thai ideas about human interaction color their visions of what democracy should be.

Here you can see how Thai political problems are thought to be caused by everyone not working together–not subsuming their will to the whole. This Thai vision of democracy means all can talk about different viewpoints, but must ultimately work together in unison–rather than democracy being a way to tolerate many opposing views at once.

The constant Thai impulse toward amnesty for all is part of this. It is thought better to restore unity to the nation’s village rather than to risk the open expression of dissatisfaction and finger pointing over past events. This is what Thais mean by reconciliation. It is never about being open and resolving what happened in the past or obtaining justice for the wronged. It is always about the threat of these things to the peace and harmony of society. That is why the deaths of those who died in protests on behalf of politicians can be bargained away in the interest of Thai reconciliation and amnesty.

It is also worth noting that Thais gravitate to any Western self-help materials that tout working together. Of course, teamwork is something that arrogant and personally ambitious Westerners need to work on, but not Thais who taught to always work in teams from an early age.

So when Thais find books or experts that advise about teamwork, this validates deeply held notions that it is preferable to always work in a group, lest any individual be singled out either for criticism or praise.

This impulse is clear in this cartoon as the success of their project is because they worked together and were of one mind in a group.

Earlier from MICT: Why do we have to love Thai culture?]

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The story of “Sticker”

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Top: Before the end of the class today, here is a short Thai political history.

Bottom: I want you to learn this for a further study of history.

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Top: Today, in “Extension of life’ experiences” [the name of the class, is there a better translation?], Teacher Santi showed us a documentary about Thai political history. We enjoyed it.

Bottom: Sticker likes to study with Teacher Santi because he encourages us to ask various questions. He said learning to question is a good way to practice thinking.

Teacher Santi: Please learn to question.

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Top: He always tells us that although Thai society sometimes adheres to seniority, in his view, people who have a good idea don’t need to be judged according to their ages. He respects their ideas rather than their ages.

Teacher Santi: Don’t allow your ideas be limited by something.

Bottom: In his class, he asks us to express our ideas freely and practice thinking. He asks all students to have a critical discussion.

Teacher Santi: To live together, we must learn to listen to other ideas.

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Top: I want you to learn how to think. Even it’s out of the box, it still helps to develop our country to compete with others.

Soon, we’ll be in the ASEAN community. I want you to join them–not only being a follower.

Bottom: So, at least we should start to practice thinking and discussing based on reason.

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Top: Teacher Santi: So, I’ll give you homework.

Students:[top-pink] Oh… teacher. [blue] Please give us a little homework. [bottom-pink] Don’t give us a lot of homework.

Bottom: Not many. It’s only one homework assignment that all of you in the class have to work together on.

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Top: [yellow] Since today we learned about democracy… [blue] As we study about democracy in class, so I want all of you, 25 persons, to do only do one assignment together.

Bottom: [pink] Submit me only one work related to democracy.

[blue word] “Democracy”

[purple] Can we do whatever?

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Top: Teacher Santi: Whatever you agree to you… please discuss about this.

Students: It seems to be fun.

Bottom: A boy: What about if there is a thing we want to do, but our friends don’t.
A girl: Then we’ll vote.

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Top: [orange] That’s right. If there is a disagreement, we must vote.
[blue] Use the democratic way.

Bottom: Teacher Santi: It’s the end of class. See you next week. I’ll wait to see your work.

Students: [pink] Sawaddee ka, teacher. [blue] Sawaddee krub, teacher.

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We meet during the weekend to discuss what we will do.

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Top: We really want to make it good.

Students: What should we do? What should we do? What should we do?

Bottom: [top-left] We suggest many things.
[bottom left] Should we write an essay about governance that we learned?
[right] It’s not fun. It’s like writing what teacher taught.

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Top: Sticker used to see a website that collected famous writers or thinkers’ quotes. We shall see the website and maybe can use it.

Bottom: But this is the democracy in term of the foreigner’s meaning–not Thais.

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Top: left: But the teacher didn’t set a scope only in Thailand.

Right: That’s right. The teacher didn’t mention only in Thailand.

Bottom: Student on the left: It’s interesting. I want to know what the foreigners think.
Student on the right: I disagree because it’s not suitable for Thais.

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Top: But, do you remember what the teacher taught? He said we shouldn’t judge immediately.

Bottom: That’s right. We like to study with teacher Santi due to this. No matter what you say, it’s ok as long as you use it based on reason.

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Top: You’re right. I judged it too early because I heard my dad said that we shouldn’t follow Western democracy.
I agree with your idea.

Bottom: Wanida, you’re good in English. So, you and Sticker as well as Pichit shall select the quotes.
Boy: I will draw a picture.

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Top: Then, the meeting divided each person’s responsibility. There are the academic team, the food supply team and the team to help borrow things to support the group.

Bottom: Banya and Niran are in an artwork team.

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Top: Then, we start our democratic work.

Bottom: This is the first time that Sticker worked in a group with classmates.

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Top: We find out that there are more problems than working alone.
If there is a disagreement, we have to vote.

Middle: But what we learned is really important. We can do more things than working alone. In teamwork, we must respect our team.

Bottom: Respect each other ideas.
But what we gained is really worthy.

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Top: We decided to set an exhibition in front of a school’s canteen.

Middle: There are an exhibition zone and activities allowing the audience to participate.

Bottom: Our work has gained a lot of attention from our seniors and juniors [students in grades above and below them] as well as the teachers. They praised us.

A teacher: All of you did a great job.

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Top: And these are some parts of our work.

Bottom: As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
Abraham Lincoln, former US President

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Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.  Franklin D. Roosevelt, former US President
Man: Education

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Democracy is always an unfinished experiment, testing the capacity of each generation to live freedom nobly. George Weigel, American writer
Above the man: Freedom Democracy

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Democracy is not a spectator sport, it’s a participatory event. If we don’t participate in it, it ceases to be a democracy. Michael Moore, American director
Between the men: Democracy

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In a democracy, power is not permanent.
Lalu Prasad Yadav, Indian politician

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I understand democracy as something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong.
Mahatma Gandhi, former Indian leader

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Democracy is the art of thinking independently together.
Alexander Meiklejohn, British philosopher

Mman: [top bubble] Living together [bottom bubble] help thinking and working together

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Top: Sticker and friends are glad that we’ve learn how to think like teacher Santi taught.

Middle: We learned about democracy through our small works.

Bottom: This work taught us to listen to each others’ ideas and discuss based on reason.

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Top: This work taught us that if we join hands together, we can do things….

Middle: Which we’ve never thought we could do!!

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Middle: Sawaddee ka.

Bottom: The end.

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The end of Sticker’s story. Chapter 7 “Things that we didn’t know we could do.”

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