What we can learn from the Thai military – winning over the NBA

In 1975, South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia fell to the Communist. According to the ‘Domino theory’, the next piece to fall, Thailand, was almost a certainty. How the Thai military stopped the Communist advance, with the minimum loss of lives, was brilliant and offer important lessons in resolving conflicts and fighting insurgency.

The events were beautifully captured by Ajahn Brahm, a British Theravada monk and a popular youtuber, currently residing in Australia, in his book Opening the Door of your Heart [here].

Their strategy consists of three parts.

  1. Restraint

Despite knowing the bases of the Communists, they did not attack any of them. An attack can easily trigger a tit-for-tat and escalate the situation rapidly. The Thai army only observed from a distance and advised the people to stay away from these bases. The Communists were using these camps to arm and train their Thai recruits.

  1. Forgiveness

The Red Army, Communist soldiers, was not the main concern. Rather, the young and intelligent university students abandoning their studies and joining the Communists were. Also, among the Thai populace, there were sympathizers who support and provide the rebels with food and vital intelligence. This war, according to the Thai military, can only be won through winning the hearts and minds of these people. Not through violence or threats.

Absolute amnesty was given to any rebel who decided to give up their fight and return to their home. No punishment nor condition. They will be under surveillance for some time and after that, nothing else. This provide the insurgents with an honourable exit.

  1. Solving the root problem

Massive and rapid development in building new roads, repairing old roads, providing electricity, setting up schools and clinics to even the most remote areas in Thailand were being carried out. The King himself paid for and supervised the construction of thousands of reservoirs, which connect to the irrigation system, allowing the farmers to plant twice in a year. Living condition and income of the people improve significantly. The people find it no need to support the Communist and the insurgents also beginning to see that their struggle as pointless.

By the early 1980s, there were hardly any insurgents left. The leaders of the insurgency who returned were offered important positions in the government. The Thai government see them as capable people and leaders who can truly contribute to the nation and benefit the people. Today, two of them are ministers in the Cabinet. The Thai military clinched a solid victory and drove the Communist away.

*****

In SGM, we seems to be doing exactly the opposite of restraint, forgiveness and solving the root problem.

Lack of restraint in SGM

We must observe restraint in our respond and behaviour towards NBA members, expelled members, resigned leaders and their sympathizers at all times. Using derogatory terms, like traitors, trouble makers and devils to label others would be the opposite of restraint. People of wisdom and compassion never use these condescending words nor tone to assert their superiority. Only immature people and those who cannot reason in a civilized manner, or use common sense, resort to names calling and verbal violence.

The achievement of 10,000 Professor of Happiness was hailed as a milestone and great success. We sincerely congratulate SGM for the success. This is not a put down.

What we find offensive and intolerably mean is the whatsapp message from allegedly a top leader, widely circulated, stating that this is a victory over evil. It also boasted that those ‘few hundreds’ who left are nothing since we can add ten thousand. It claimed this is as The Final Victory.

The WhatsApp message by a SGM top leader:

The Final Victory!

For more than 2 years since 2014,  SGM was beset with fierce attacks from devilish functions from within and without. The entire organization almost came to a stand still as many of those who schemed against SGM were top leaders collaborating with anti-gakkai groups.

These ungrateful disssidents fabricated  malicious lies that aimed to demonise the gakkai top leadership, they sought to destablize the organzation in order to topple it.

Following sensei’s guidance, we rallied around our general director and launched a movement to refute evil and impart the  true. We stood our ground and the truth eventually prevail.

Though a few hundred leaders have resigned and left the organization, and another few more hundred members followed them. But 45,000 members remained….they are the true disciples who unite and centre around our General Director and WD chief to rebuild a new SGM.

At the 11th Training Academy seminar held in March 2017 at the Selangor Culture Centre,  General Director officially announced the closure of the Johor incidence and  declared victory over evil, and that from now on we would deal with these dissidents and NBA followers as we would in the Soka spirit movement.

Today, on this auspicious day of Ikeda sensei’s 90th birthday, we could proudly and loudly declare our sweet, hard earned real victory – we have achieved our set goal of 10,000 professors of happiness.

While a few hundreds may have left us over the past 3 years,  but this year alone, 10,000 POH joined this Buddha’s organization. Now this is what we call Final Victory .

All righteousness have been proven. We have achieved Victory of the Justice of Soka Gakkai that sensei care so much about! This victory is for you sensei!

This saddened and deeply disappointed us that a person in SGM’s high position, can utter such arrogant, cold and mean words to slight and hurt those who left SGM.

Claiming victory of 10,000 Professor of Happiness is a hollow claim. Many grass root leaders knew it. Not all 10,000 new shakubuku are genuine. Granted, there are genuine new members who took up faith after sincere and repeated dialogue. However, there were also those who signed Form 18 without understanding Nichiren Buddhism and some were even signed by leaders without their knowledge.

Sensei’s birthday is used as a rallying point. In their desperation to achieve the target, the conditions were lowered, and leaders in SGM vetted through the name lists of the chapter and search for junior division members to be included in Form 18.

Is deja vu right? 24k remember? We achieved our target of 24,000 new shakubuku. One year later, SGI leaders discovered that there were only 6000 YMD and 6000 YWD in the organization’s statistics, which was the same figure as before the campaign. The top leaders in SGM were sternly reprimanded for cooking the numbers and lying to our mentor. Lying in this matter is a serious offence, they said. Seems like we have not learnt our lesson.

Forgive, but not forget

Any resigned or expelled leader who wish to return to SGM will be required to write an apology letter, stating their remorse and admitting fault. Only then they will be allowed to return. This is nonsense. What do SGM want to achieve by this? To denounced the person, to punish him and to break him permanently? To use it against him in future? We can’t think of any reason other than spite and viciousness.

We don’t think anyone, in their right mind, would want to return with this condition. If we, the authors here, were the ECC, we would roll out a huge red carpet and welcome them back. After all, they are our Myoho (Mystic Law) brothers and sisters.

Solving the root problem – superficially

The entire saga in SGM started with governance issue in Johor. The State’s Chairman of Johor had acted in a way that was deemed inappropriate, conflict of interest (read here), and affected the trust of the membership towards the top leaders and SGM in general. There was serious shortcomings in SGM’s governance.

To resolve this issue, SGM must tackle the root cause by implementing strict governance. Yet, we only notice changes that are window dressing at best.

  • The appointment of the Chief Admin is also currently the General Council General Secretary
  • Monetary contribution in New Year – receipts only given upon request
  • Lack of transparency in the accounts and money matters
  • The same individuals in the General Council, ECC, CSC and Appointment Committee, lack of check and balance and no separation of powers
  • No guidelines as to who can be a full member and decisions to accept and reject were arbitrary

We hope all leaders in SGM can exercise restrain, forgiveness and focus on resolving the root problem. This is the only way to strengthen the organisation and enable it to expand in the future. With the Lunar New Year approaching, perhaps it is a good opportunity to clear the pasts, rebuild and re-establish the bonds of friendship with our friends and not allow organisation matters or top leaders to come between us.

In addition, we should use the strategy of the Lotus Sutra, regarding each person, NBA or not, as a Buddha and worthy of our utmost respect. We sincerely pray for the happiness of these individuals. Let is remind ourselves once again, that our mentor, Mr Ikeda, has repeatedly stressed to treasure each and every member of the Soka Gakkai, and that each person is unique, irreplaceable and worthy of our utmost respect.

It is our deepest yearning to see a Soka Gakkai organisation that is overflowing with warmth, laughter, genuine concern and immense compassion towards each person. We used to be like that. Let’s us manifest these great humanistic characteristics in our lives, every day, and display the true picture of the Soka Gakkai spirit of humanism.

What does Bodhisattva Never Disparaging’s profound respect for people signify? The purpose of the appearance in this world of Sakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behaviour as human being. 

Nichiren Daishonin

“The Three Kinds of Treasure”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p851-2

 

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