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Long live the will of the peopl

Bangkok Post May 24, 1998 



                              Thongbai Thongpao

              Long live the will
              of the people 

              Interesting changes have been taking place at high levels in two
              Asean countries. In Indonesia, strong protests by student and
              activist groups have forced Pres ident Suharto to give up the
              power he had held for almost 32 years.

              Students are the future of a coun try. Young and educated, they
              will grow up to be the major force in society.

              They hold the future of a country in their hands. In practically
              every country with quasi-dictatorial rule, students or youth are
              usually the major force that eventually brings about radical

              In Thailand, the long-ruling dicta tors were forced to step down
              when the students took to the streets dur ing the October 14,
              1973, incident. And the last thread of dictatorship by the
              National Peace-Keeping Council was cut when students and
              people alike demonstrated in the streets during the Bloody May
              incident of 1992.

              Suharto has been in power far too long. Throughout his reign, he
              has ruled like an emperor - a dictator in a democratic society -
              whom no body can challenge. Indonesians have never enjoyed
              more freedom than he would allow. Human rights violations were
              rampant and apparent to the eyes of the whole world.
              Nonetheless, the outside world was unable to do anything as
              human rights have a border in Indonesia in spite of the presence
              of the National Human Rights Committee there. Some have
              commented that the body is simply a paper tiger and is not
              allowed to protect human rights effectively.

              A clear example is news of rampant human rights violations in
              East Timor, which has spread all over the world. Freedom of the
              press has also been curbed in Indonesia. There are no such
              things as independent newspapers, radio or TV stations.

              Economically, the Suharto family is monopolising the country's
              enor mous wealth. His wife and children all own lucrative
              businesses and operate concessions. It is not an over statement
              to say that their corporate network covers practically every
              business in the country.

              During my recent trip to Sumatra and Jakarta, I booked and
              confirmed a seat on an Indonesian airline which was scheduled
              to leave in the evening. In the morning of that day, I went to
              collect my ticket but was told that no seat was available. My
              travel agency and I insisted that we had made proper
              reservations and confirmed them. The employee simply told us
              that no seat was available and that if we really needed to fly that
              day, we would have to use an other airline. Finally, we gave up
              and took the advice.

              I learned later that the airline be longed to one of the president's
              sons. When I visited a fantastic bird park in Jakarta, I was told
              that it belongs to the first lady.

              Dictators always give higher priority to their interests than the
              interests of the nation or their people. Long-running corruption
              and ruling has turned the once-wealthy Indonesia into a poor
              country. Another country which is seeing a change in leadership
              is the Philip pines. However, the change that may bring Vice
              President Joseph Estrada to the top post is democratic. Instead
              of tanks and guns, it is the people who will send him to the
              presidency. A leader that comes from the will of the people is
              much more elegant than a dictator.

              The changes that are undergoing in both countries are two
              completely different lessons to learn from. In one, it is
              commendable while in the other it is disgusting.

              Long live the will of the people. 


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Last Modified: Sun, May 24, 1998