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Rising buffalo-like from the ashes

June 15,2001

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra should heave a big sigh of relief. Dr Sem Pringpungkaew, the honoured citizen, has come to his rescue. He calls Thaksin “The Knight of the Black Buffalo”, destined to redeem this Golden Land from all its political, economic, social and cultural decadence.

Even if Thaksin were to die, he should, like Charlton Heston in the classic movie “El Sid”, be propped upright on the back of the black buffalo to provide inspiration and lead the way out of the mire for Thai people.

By calling Thaksin “The Knight of the Black Buffalo”, Sem has alluded to the prime minister’s unstable, dualimage psyche. Thaksin’s problem lies in his predilection for everything farang, but which is unsuitable for the Thai premiership right now. He considers himself a CEO prime minister. He refers to Suvarnabhumi, or the Golden Land, as Thailand Inc. A biography hails him as “The Knight of the Third Wave”, implying that the telecom tycoon is forging Thailand ahead into the information age. And due to his landslide general election victory in January this year, the Thai people have come to look upon Thaksin as a “White Knight”, or a saviour.

All these terms are farang. This is not to mention Thaksin’s preferences for English jargon and vocabulary to express his vision for Thailand Inc.

Recently, in an address to the Fortune Global Forum in Hong Kong, Thaksin also delved into Western terminology to illustrate his view on the rebirth of Asia – Asia must learns from its past mistakes, bank on its resources and strengths and cooperate more among its members. To represent the reborn Asia, he used the term “rising phoenix”.

The trouble is, the phoenix is a mythical bird of the ancient Egyptians. The legend has it that the phoenix lived for five or six centuries in the Arabian desert, being consumed by its own fire and rising in youthful freshness from its own ashes. The phoenix is often regarded as an emblem of immortality or resurrection.

Most Thai people, to be sure, don’t understand what the phoenix stands for. If Thaksin bothered to study Thai myth, he would not have hesitated to pick the garuda instead of the phoenix by way of metaphor.

In a way, Sem is inadvertently preparing Thaksin for a rebirth after his showdown at the Constitution Court. The prime minister should thank Sem for helping him in one fell swoop to localise his image. “We don’t want to compare Thaksin to a white knight like in the West, but should look at him as a Black Buffalo knight like in the East,” Sem explained. “In the Bang Rachan war, buffaloes were used in battle.”

Thaksin should know by now that if he wants to continue to rule Thailand, he has to come down to earth by nurturing his Thai image and polishing his Thai spirit.

Yesterday, the prime minister was scheduled to attend a grand rite in Khon Kaen to drive away evil spirits.

A topnotch group of 108 monks from Isaan presided over this ancient Thai ceremony. More than 20,000 people witnessed this event, a mixture of superstition and religion, to boost the morale of the prime minister. Thaksin can always count on the Thai way.

So instead of portraying himself as a white knight in shining armour riding on horseback in Europe’s chivalrous Middle Ages, Thaksin should watch the war movie “Bang Rachan” in which Bin Bunluerit rode a black buffalo into battle against the Burmese. That would be a more appropriate role model.

During these modern times, the war against the Burmese has become cultural and psychological. So who else is more suitable than the prime minister to mount the back of the black buffalo to fight this symbolic war?



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