Civil society at risk from war on terror

The Nation - Thursday, November 13, 2003

The blurring of the lines between terrorism and democratic opposition is undermining civil society's progress towards a just world that respects individual liberty and human rights, Prince Alfred of Liechtenstein said in Bangkok yesterday.

The prince warned that the post-September 11 situation has become very serious for civil society and that "If we label all kinds of democratic resistance as terrorism then our social evolution is dead."

The prince, who delivered a keynote speech at Thammasat University entitled "From Civil Society to World Civil Society", drew parallels between speeches given by Osama bin Laden and US President George W Bush.

"If you compare the speeches of Osama bin Laden and President George W Bush you will find that they are almost using the same words," he said. "Both of them want to impose their value systems and their interests."

Prince Alfred, who is a member of the International Academy of Science, said in some cases the definition of terrorism had been extended to cover civil protests. This, he said, without naming the countries responsible, shows "how absurd the debate has become".

He said civil society has an obligation to mobilise power against corrupt and dictatorial governments and question their legitimacy and to challenge abuses in the corporate sector, as well as envisioning a new world.

The prince's speech was part of a series of addresses by eminent people including Nobel laureates in an event called "Bridges: Dialogues Towards a Culture of Peace". It is sponsored by the International Peace Foundation, whose advisory board is chaired by the prince.

Pravit Rojanaphruk

The Nation