Hannah Arendt’s striking phrase “the banality of evil,” first emerged during the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a Nazi officer responsible for orchestrating the logistics of the Holocaust. Arendt observed that Eichmann was not a monstrous figure, but rather an ordinary bureaucrat who participated in extraordinary atrocities without moral reflection. This notion challenges the perception of evil as something perpetrated solely by sociopaths or extremists; instead, it can manifest through the ordinary actions, or inactions, of regular people.

Fast forward to the present and the tragic case of Bung Thaluwang, a 28-year-old political activist who died after suffering a cardiac arrest while being detained. She had been on a hunger strike in detention. Bung was arrested on a lese-majeste charge, and her health deteriorated after she was denied bail and resorted to a hunger strike to advocate for the rights of political prisoners. Her passing has ignited a storm of social media comments with the worst among us calling her death ‘deserved’ for her perceived slights towards the high institutions of the country.

In these reactions, we see the banality of evil redefined for the digital age. It’s not just the outspoken extremists who bear responsibility for perpetuating injustice; it is also those among us who passively accept the status quo, that somehow the death of a young person in custody is normal.

When we scroll past news of an unjust death, when we fail to question laws that stifle freedom of expression, or when we dismiss the importance of advocating for human rights, we contribute to a culture that allows such tragedies to occur.

The indifference of many to Bung’s death, rationalizing it as an unavoidable fact of life, is a stark manifestation of this new banality of evil. This perspective is not only callous but dangerously complacent. Accepting such views as normal, or feeling powerless to change them, provides the very environment in which injustice thrives.

It is unjust not only that someone should go to jail for holding political views but that society should accept such a fate without uproar. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin, who promised to protect the youth advocating for change before he became prime minister, must now act on that commitment.

And as a society, we must remember the lessons from Hannah Arendt’s analysis of Adolf Eichmann. Just as Eichmann defended his actions by claiming he was just adhering to the legal framework of his time, we too face a crucial choice: to question or to conform. The framework that allowed for Bung Thaluwang’s detention and subsequent death exists, but it is our moral imperative to challenge it.

Laws and enforcement mechanisms that suppress dissent and punish political expression are not infallible truths but constructs that should be rigorously examined and contested. It is not enough to accept the continuation of unjust laws and police actions simply because they are part of an established system. Our society must develop the courage to question these frameworks and assert that adherence to injustice is itself a form of complicity.

To not do so, we risk becoming someone like this:

The post Opinion – The ‘Evil of Indifference’ in Bung’s death appeared first on Thai Enquirer.

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Author: Arun Saronchai