Children’s Day 2017. Traditionally, the prime minister opens Government House to young people once a year. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

As National Children’s Day draws near, it’s time for the public to pay attention to the annual slogan (kham kwan) thought up each year by the prime minister of the day for kids.

It’s also the time when phuyai, or senior figures, place their expectations on children’s shoulders, mostly through such slogans which typically highlight certain values such as the virtue of education and discipline or hard work, morality and how to be a smart citizen.

Unlike in previous years when the slogan was released early in January, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced this year’s one late last month, extraordinarily early indeed. Now, state agencies are busy printing it out and putting it up at Children’s Day venues. Most slogans are a short phrase, sometimes with a rhyme, that encourage children to think about an issue.

Ploenpote Atthakor is editorial pages editor, Bangkok Post.

Children’s Day, which falls on the second Saturday of January — Jan 13 this year — is a big event for kids who expect special treatment, gifts and/or tours to some swanky places like the Thai Khu Fah Building, or access to military areas so they can climb up on tanks, etc.

This year, the prime minister is encouraging kids to keep themselves informed, and pay attention to technological developments. In his slogan last year, Prime Minister Prayut urged them to study hard, which would pave the way for a stable future, not for just themselves but for the nation, he said.

Such slogans come with an initial expectation for the kids: they are obliged to memorise them, as they may pop up and haunt them in an exam or quiz question. Many will now be relieved that the “12 Core Values” put in place by the National Council for Peace and Order, under Gen Prayut’s leadership, are now “out” — at least officially.

No doubt the premier had to think deeply when choosing the slogan to make sure it was okay. If he made the wrong choice, he would find himself ridiculed or challenged by critics, especially as the expectation is that phuyai must lead by example. Some people around our leader have had a hard time proving this.

Interestingly, he chose to omit morality from his Children’s Day slogan this time. But how can a government locked in a series of scandals preach morality?

Take a look at the row involving pricey accessories — a Richard Mille wristwatch and a diamond ring, worn by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon. He was spotted with the expensive items while awaiting a group cabinet photo early last month.

The deputy PM, while refusing to talk about the topic to the press, has reportedly sent a letter to the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), explaining how he obtained the luxury items, and more importantly, he is expected to explain why they were not listed in his assets declaration in the first place.

The high-profile scandal cast Gen Prawit in a bad light. What is worse is the way the graftbusters came to his defence which gave the impression they are reluctant to handle it.

Not to mention the close relations between the deputy premier and the NACC big bosses. NACC president Pol Gen Watcharapol Prasarnrajkit used to be secretary to Gen Prawit when the latter took office. He was selected as the new president of the anti-graft body in December 2015 amid accusations he won the post with the backing of the regime.

The background is interesting. Pol Gen Watcharapol was a close aide of Pol Gen Patcharawat Wongsuwon, Gen Prawit’s younger brother, who is now a member of the coup-installed National Legislative Assembly. Pol Gen Patcharawat, an ex-top cop, is being probed by the NACC for allegedly concealing his wealth.

Also, incidentally, the wealth-concealment probe against Pol Gen Patcharawat has proceeded at a snail’s pace. Surprised?

The Prawit-Watcharapol plus Patcharawat alliance speaks volumes about connections, and cronyism or nepotism. Having said this, I wonder how the phuyai will be able to teach kids the perils of social evils such as cronyism?

Since the Richard Mille scandal came to light, some social media sleuths have delved deeper into Gen Prawit’s unexplained watch collection and found old pictures showing him with more pricey timepieces — Patek Philippes, Rolexes and more. As with the first watch, many did not appear on his assets list. It’s still unclear why the anti-graft agency, in particular, Pol Gen Watcharapol, has shown no intention of scrutinising these other undeclared items.

I pity the premier for having to come up with the annual slogan. He should know that kham kwan are meaningless when phuyai cannot lead by example.

News Reporter

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