Patriotism bill 'goes too far'
Lawmakers yesterday flagged some parts of the National Flag Amendment Bill as impractical, including a requirement for motorists to stop driving for the national anthem, but its sponsor insisted on the need to revive patriotism.
"I'm 70 years old now. I've heard the national anthem playing when the flag is raised every morning and when the flag is lowered in the evening and when we stand at attention for that, it makes us feel uplifted and love our country. So I want to bring that back for campaigning once more," said General Preecha Rojsen.
The bill, tabled by Preecha as chairman of NLA committee on education, religion and culture, amends the National Flag Act of 1986, which requires the flag ceremony to be performed at 8am and 6pm every day and people to pay respect to the ceremony and the national anthem.
The National Legislative Assembly assigned a 15-member committee to vet the bill within 10 days.
Article 45/5 of the bill stipulates that members of the public must stand at attention or be still and, in case they are driving or riding, stop their vehicles
and face the direction from which they hear the anthem or see people raising or lowering the national flag.
They can proceed on their way or with their activities after the playing of the anthem and the hoisting or lowering of the flag ends. Exceptions are made only for vehicles on expressways, railways, airways, waterways or other channels where they cannot stop.
Preecha told The Nation that he proposed the amendment because honouring the flag helped instil patriotism and emphasised people's awareness of national importance. If people were patriotic, society in general would be orderly and Thai culture would be promoted. Foreign visitors admire seeing Thais paying respect to their flag and anthem.
The bill was not meant to punish people but to fix the PM Office's regulation issued during the Thaksin Shinawatra administration that relieved government offices from having to hoist and lower the flag every morning and evening, he said.
As for motorists, he said the current law did not cover them. It only applied to pedestrians or people at rest or engaged in activities. People in cars should also revere the national flag and anthem, as they would only have to pause for one minute and eight seconds.
"I've talked to police. [Doing that] during the above-mentioned times would not create traffic jams. You just stop the car, no need to get out. If it were 20 years ago, you would have to stop the car and get out to stand at attention," he said.
The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and police already had speakers installed along the roads. They should play the anthem so people can hear it and demonstrate their patriotism, he said.
Members of his committee from the Education Ministry agreed with this idea and would launch a campaign at schools for kids to observe, he said, adding that he expected the bill to pass within the NLA's term.
The Nation Nov. 23, 2007