Mark Abhisit’s Confession
Nearly one month since the release of our Application to the International Criminal Court, where it was argued that Mark Abhisit Vejjajiva is a citizen of the United Kingdom, the edifice of lies and obfuscation built by the government to counter the allegations has come crashing down. Before parliament, the Prime Minister was forced to admit that he still holds British citizenship, which he acquired at birth.
Thai law does not disqualify Mark Abhisit from holding public office on the basis of his dual nationality. It is up to the Thai electorate, moreover, to decide whether Mark Abhisit’s status as citizen of the United Kingdom makes him unfit to serve. Aside from the fact that this new revelation places the Prime Minister squarely under the jurisdiction of the ICC, this entire episode has highlighted traits that will in all likelihood factor into the voters’ decision.
The first is Mark Abhisit’s predisposition to lie and deceive. Whenever journalists have pressed him to comment on the allegations, his answers have ranged from evasive (“I am not a citizen of Montenegro”), to non-responsive (“I am a Thai citizen”), to misleading (“I paid the same school fees at Eton that foreigners pay”). While Mark Abhisit never personally went beyond these “non-denial denials,” refusing to answer specifically whether he had renounced British citizenship, he left the outright lying to his spokespersons.
Since our Application was submitted to the ICC Prosecutor, Democrat Party MPs Sirichoke Sopha and Attaporn Ponlaboot, Democrat Party spokesperson Buranat Samutrak, and the Prime Minister’s own spokesperson Theptai Senpong have issued daily, categorical denials that Mark Abhisit is still British, often adding that we had fabricated these allegations. Of course, none of these men have ever exhibited any problem lying to the public, so Mark Abhisit cannot be faulted for making them do something they otherwise would not. At a minimum, however, it is evidence of poor leadership to hang one’s spokespersons out to dry by letting them lie about something so easily disprovable.
None of this is new, of course. In spite of his ill-gotten reputation as a “squeaky clean” politician, Mark Abhisit is well known to play fast and loose with the truth. In every matter on which his government has been asked tough questions – the Rohingya affair, the lese majeste prosecutions, the media censorship, and last year’s massacre of 91 people – the same pattern has repeated itself over and over again. In every case, the government has stonewalled, obfuscated the facts, suppressed evidence, made promises of transparency it never intended on keeping, and trotted out the usual buffoons who never met a lie they were too ashamed to tell. On the issue of dual nationality as well as on the human rights abuses committed by the security forces, we have all come to expect that Mark Abhisit’s government will never respond with anything but falsehoods. After all, if one cannot tell the truth about his real name, or his nationality, how can he be expected to be open about his role in incidents that may well result in criminal liability?
Aside from whether a pathological liar is fit to serve Thailand as its Prime Minister, the Thai public might also want to consider whether someone as reluctant to take responsibility for his mistakes and so eager to pass the buck to someone else possesses the moral qualities to lead. Even while admitting his British nationality today, Mark Abhisit had the audacity to blame his parents for registering his birth in the United Kingdom, when he had almost thirty years to renounce his citizenship, had he ever wished to do so. In Mark Abhisit’s world, it is always someone else’s fault. Despite his government’s appalling human rights record, Mark Abhisit has always sought to deflect accountability for the crimes committed on his watch.
Dual citizenship does not disqualify Mark Abhisit from holding public office. His compulsive dishonesty and substandard leadership definitely should.