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It’s the emotion quotient, stupid

June 22, 2001

At this moment, no man is as lonely, or as dejected, as the Rambolike Klanarong Chantik. The secretarygeneral of the National Counter Corruption Commission has become the bad guy in the eyes of the Thai people.

By unleashing all his legal weapons before the Constitution Court to prove that Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is guilty of concealing his assets, Klanarong has offended many Thais. Few are willing to forgive him what he has done to their beloved prime minister. He made Thailand’s most popular prime minister ever cry.

When Klanarong took up the case against Thaksin last year, he hardly realised that he would be confronting the most charismatic politician Thailand has ever seen, a man as popular as a rock star and as formidable, as Dr Sem Primpuangkaew perfectly put it, as the Knight of the Black Buffalo. The Thai people do not care a bit about the spirit of the Constitution that Klanarong seeks to uphold.

Thaksin’s jobapproval rating is the highest ever, more than any other prime minister could ever have dreamt of. Thai voters knew that Thaksin would have to face the court over his assetdisclosure indictment, yet they still gave him a landslide victo?ry in the January election.

The closing arguments in court of the two antag?onists looked like a boxing mismatch. Thaksin was like a retired Muhammad Ali, who hardly answered any punches. He just dashed around the ring with his quick footwork for the entire bout. Then he was declared the winner.

Klanarong gave all of the jabs, his hard punches and dangerous uppercuts to the bruising Thaksin. But he lost the fight. Moreover, he was booed and jeered for hurting his opponent.

From the Constitution Court corridor, Thaksin emerged as a hero yet again, winning the hearts and minds of the thousands of people who gathered in front of the court to give him a rousing cheer.

Klanarong was left alone inside the courtroom. His hands in his pockets, he could hardly raise his chin. At that moment, he looked more like an alien from another planet than the nation’s top corrup?tion buster.

If he could turn back the clock, Klanarong would have certainly wanted to adjust his strategy in the sacred chamber of the Constitution Court on that fateful Monday afternoon of June 19, 2001. Instead of dwelling on legal technicalities, he should have resorted to an emotional plea to defend himself because he was the accused – not the plaintiff – in the eyes of Thai society at large.

Instead of addressing the justices of the Constitution Court, he should have talked direct to the TV camera, to capture the sympathy of the Thai people in their living rooms about his thankless job.

Here is a more humane version of how he should have delivered his closing argument before the jus?tices of the Constitution Court:

“Your Honours, I would like to confess that I have been having several sleepless nights. The strain has been almost unbearable, so that I have to take a dozen aspirins. Yesterday, in particular, I was not sure whether my life, my career and my family would be forever doomed. For it appeared to me that I had become the prime target of a curse and voodoo magic from the Isaan people, who flocked to a grand temple in Khon Kaen to dispel any evil spir?its befallen on Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

“Your Honours might probably have watched that dreadful event on TV. While I am talking now, I am not sure either whether the curse from Isaan has already produced the magical effect of sending rusty nails into my stomach. I have no time to undergo an Xray check because I need to prepare this closing argument before you. Certainly, nobody would like to be in my shoes. By taking the case against the Most Honourable Thaksin Shinawatra, his Excellency, the Prime Minister of Thailand, I have inadvertently become the numberone enemy of the entire Northeast region.

“Your Honour, do you think that I really enjoy the prospect of driving through Isaan and then getting booted out wherever I go? It’s not fun at all. Let me say it from the bottom of my heart, as a public serv?ice official, who loves his family, community and country, I have no intention of hurting anybody. My mother taught me to have moral courage as my name Klanarong literally suggests. Klanarong means to ‘have valour in warfare’.

“I am not sure right now [stumbling with words, with tears brimming] whether valour would serve me right if I dare to upset all the Isaan people. Moreover, more than 200,000 people in Bangkok have signed up against me. Every signature collect?ed by Dr Sem, the honourable citizen, to rally sup?port for the prime minister is an expression of hate against me and against my thankless job.

“I really have no intention of hurting these peo?ple. They have every right to love their prime minis?ter. It should not be a zerosum game. If they love their prime minister, they should not hate me as much.

“Then Thongkon Wongsamut, the chief aide of Luangta Mahabua from Udon Thani, has also been going after me with all the other signatures. Do you think I want to upset Thongkon after all he has done to former prime minister Chuan Leekpai and former finance minister Tarrin Nimmanahaeminda?

“Your Honour, I would be mad to displease these people. I have nothing else to say in my closing argument. For I have said it all with honesty and from the bottom of my heart.”

If Klanarong had made this speech, he would have pleased all Thais. And everybody would be happy.

Thanong Khantong



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