Satish Sehgal Doesn’t Live Here Anymore – or Does He?
March 6, 2014 (Harlan Wolff) - I understand Satish Sehgal and his deep love of Thailand. He has lived here for fifty years and I have lived here for thirty-six. I know why he found joining the demonstrations irresistible, but unfortunately, I also knew what the government reaction would be. I believe that, like me, Mr. Sehgal has seen the dreadful changes that Thaksin brought to Thailand. I believe he cares very deeply.
I remember when this was the land of smiles and people were happy and friendly, but I watched a vile strategy turning Thai against Thai for political and financial gain.
I remember when Thaksin came to power and, like Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, he declared loudly, “Greed is good.”
I remember he was Deputy Prime Minister in 1997 and was accused of making huge profits from the disastrous floating of the baht that resulted in the Asian Financial Crisis.
I remember the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis and Thaksin’s allies, the Wall Street carpetbaggers, coming to town and making billions.
I remember the people being told that going into debt would make them rich.
I remember when the electoral system was hijacked by propaganda, intimidation and money.
I remember seeing dissent squashed by the boots of militant government loyalists and the ridiculous lawsuits that asked hundreds of millions of baht in compensation from critics of Thaksin.
I remember the oppression of the media; newspapers, television and radio stations.
I remember when police death squads were sent out on the streets to torture and murder thousands of people like an evil US backed Latin-American right-wing dictatorship trapped in the nineteen-seventies.
I remember when the South erupted and the government responded with human rights abuses that would make a Nazi cringe.
I remember when Thaksin hired his ridiculously expensive PR machine, and foreign journalists started to write regurgitated propaganda until the truth was nowhere to be seen.
I remember the gradual awakening to the unprecedented levels of corruption that was destroying livelihoods, costing farmers their land, and killing their hope for the future.
I will always remember hearing of the suicides of desperate farmers and how the government ignored the unfolding tragedy that was a result of a grossly mismanaged populist policy and extreme levels of corruption.
Yes, I remember hubris.
I think Satish Sehgal saw and felt all that I felt. His crime was that he loved Thailand and its people so much that he could not remain silent. Can a foreigner be a Thai patriot? Yes, of course he can and that was his crime. This government does not like patriotism and does not tolerate it. It sells divided nationalism. It is patriotism they fear and they wish to rid the country of it. If they could dispose of all patriots they would, but they can’t deport Thai citizens. So they looked for an easy target and unfortunately Mr. Sehgal’s Indian passport was their trump card. It didn’t matter that he had been here for fifty years and had an outstanding record of selfless service to the country.
Today this country is run by people that cannot bear criticism and have a long history of lashing out at people that don’t agree with them. Fear is what this is all about, and their intention was to scare all foreigners into silence. They attacked Satish Sehgal as a transparent strategy to bully and intimidate the foreign community. The message was clear; obey or else!
The government may have made yet another mistake in the lengthy comedy of errors that history will remember them for. Thailand is no longer silent as government bully-boys inflict punishment. The people have said they will hold anybody that signs a deportation order accountable to the law. It seems the government didn’t use the law to back-up their threat, but instead tried to get immigration to do it surreptitiously on their behalf. Satish Sehgal is still here and apparently it is because nobody wants to put their name on that deportation document. Nobody wants to be held accountable because they’ve worked out the government is unlikely to last. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the government goes and Satish Sehgal stays?