From Skywalker to Darth Vader
By Tulsathit Taptim
The Nation

Whether it wins or loses, the PAD will pay a big price for Suvarnabhumi closure

Sondhi Limthongkul was pleading for public sympathy Tuesday night. We regret causing major inconvenience, he said, referring to the seizure of the Suvarnabhumi Airport, but we have no choice. His political movement, the People's Alliance for Democracy, has been targetted for sporadic bomb attacks, and the climbing death and injury tolls are adding to the tragedy of October 7, when police tear gas fired on Parliament-bound protesters killed and maimed many.

The PAD's pain is understandable. Its reaction and subsequent responses are hardly so. When thousands of PAD members staged a blockade at Suvarnabhumi on Tuesday and penetrated the passenger terminal and scuffled with officials, causing a total shutdown of the international airport, what unfolded before us was the transformation of Skywalker into Darth Vader.

Imagine a son about to board a plane to go back home and see his dying mother. Imagine patients in need of urgent medical help stranded. Business deals with be delayed or cancelled. Countless appointments will be missed.

The point is, if these problems and circumstances seem trivial in the PAD's eyes, how could the movement ever expect others and the whole world to appreciate its own situation? Understanding works both ways. If the PAD wants others' sympathy, it has to give it out. As simple as that.

The PAD's latest, most provocative and controversial strategy may yet prove effective. With the military caught in the middle and reluctant to use force either to end the airport blockade or remove the current government, Somchai Wongsawat's administration is looking a bigger lameduck by the hours.

But whatever the outcome of the Suvarnabhumi operation, the PAD will not get the only thing as important as Somchai's resignation _ public understanding and sympathy.

This is not civil disobedience. It's the PAD holding air travellers hostage to push for its goal. It's the PAD leaders telling its loyal followers that if someone inflicts you harm, it's ok to get back even at the expense of innocent others. The airport seizure caused more trouble to people whose sympathy the PAD had sought than the politicians the movement has tried to dislodge.

The travellers suffer real human ordeals. Somchai and his government are only dealt political blows. How the PAD measures the plights of these two groups goes a long way to telling us its principles and ideologies.

Having fought Thaksin Shinawatra and his alleged nominees by standing firm on the issue of conflicts of interests, the PAD has found itself in serious danger of being unravelled ideologically through conflicting values.

The real price the PAD is paying is not the dwindling sympathy from the neutrals or the big ammunition the airport infamy has given its critics. "I'm so saddened and disappointed," said a man who only weeks ago went in and out of Government House on a daily basis to support the movement. "I'm sorry I joined its rally."

It's people like him that is the real cost of the Suvarnabhumi strategy. And the biggest price to pay maybe those PAD members joining the airport blockade or cheering the move back at Government House. The leaders have won their unquestionable loyalty, but risked blurring their conscience once and for all.

The PAD used to be a political movement that did the wrong things for the right reasons. It's impossible to consider the airport seizure to be morally right because it affects hundreds of thousands of innocent people _ the passengers, their relatives, friends or business partners. That damage cannot be translated into financial figures did not mean it was light.

The PAD leaders claim they are abandoning "Ahimsa" (non-violence and non-aggression) because its members have become victims and nobody cares. That is all right as long as what happened on Tuesday evening is shrouded with proclaimed noble goals. When the action is explained in the simplest term _ "We want you to resign or a large number of innocent travellers won't be going home" _ what is the difference between that and holding an innocent passer-by at knife-point to force a bank robber to lay down his gun?