Introduction to Overcoming Fear of Monarchy in Thailand
Sick of submission to the mercy of monarchs the millions are rising to claim their rights. Finally, stronger and louder the chorus insists . . Life does not honour false social constructs, Life rejoices in rebellion against corruption, lies and exploitation. Life refutes the plastic mask.
There was not money for books. For 12 years in school we were blind, as blind as everyone else. Only in university did the world of literacy begin to open, but how many girls and boys from the villages could get there, and what would they learn if they did?
Prince Damrong (b. 1862 – 1943), with power second only to his brother Rama V (1868 – 1910), is known for westernising the Thai army, creating the general education system, health system and provincial administration. But, Damrong is ‘Father of History’, Rama V, King Chulalongkorn, is Thailand’s ‘Father of Education’.
Most human problems begin in bad, poor or mistaken education, and most of the problems of the people of Siam come from having been anointed with too many Chakri ‘fathers’.
Damrong, a self-educated ‘Palace historian’, produced some 600 documents upon whose merit Thailand’s educational curriculum was built. Damrong exiled himself during the 1932 Democracy Coup. Since then a slowly increasing number of frustrated historians and sociologists have attempted to tackle the often danger task of exposing the huge biases favouring the Chakri – since Rama I started the dynasty with the assassination of Taksin in 1782. Points of particular concern are, for example, the origins of the Thai language, the origins of the elitist concept of ‘Thainess’, and the roots of Royal Thai Army brutality.
Education in Thailand today still does not want to honour truth. It wants, as before, to stifle self-inquiry, censor honest debate, brainwash capacity to think analytically, and ensure that words like ‘monitoring’ and ‘evaluation’ remain a mystery.
The people of Thailand do not need to think because the King is the greatest thinker – able to provide all solutions. Thinking differently leads to victimisation. Challenging what we are told the Monarch thinks is not permitted – and dangerous. The ambience of fear and absence of logic leaves the whole population with a feeling that something is missing.
When the peoples of Siam search for what is missing the militarists are ready and waiting to smash them down (e.g. with a 30,000-strong Royal Guard at-the-ready) if they start thinking they don’t need monarchism.
What the people are beginning to realise is that freedom in the modern world means what it always meant – debating differences and sharing resources with strong commitment to protecting the right of every person to participate in collective decision-making.
What Thailand as a nation-state is just beginning to understand is that democracy means honouring honesty with justice – and respecting one another as individuals with equal rights.
In Thailand the perennial question – what should life be honoured for – is growing louder and stronger.
Thailand’s tens of millions of smiling faces speak much about political illiteracy, a phenomenon the patronising elite enjoys to explain away with . . “Thai people are not ready for participatory democracy”, or “Thai style democracy is easy-going”, in other words Thailand’s political culture has no tradition of valuing justice..
The famous smiles invariably veil a bundle of sadness and unspoken secrets, for instance the not so secret secret that runs something like . . ‘We have never agreed that the purpose of our lives is to serve the King and feed his City of Angels. We have never said yes to being ruled by Bangkok’. Where such truths are hiding – there may still be honest laughter.
Who are the Thai?
For two centuries the word Thai has been used to describe those who, voluntarily or involuntarily, have succumbed to Chakri over-lordship. Today the word has a prefix. True Thai are those people for whom nationalism is so normal they no longer imagine any other state. Immersed in self-interest with privileges well-protected, True Thai let poverty pass by unnoticed – like their own racism. They are dependent upon the royalist hegemony or, more precisely, their first priority is to maintain an illusion of royalist hegemony. Although their privileges may appear secure, their illusions are definitely not – and they can become vicious when challenged. Most of the True Thai live in the Bangkok area.
The True Thai will argue that everything about ‘Amazing Thailand’ is thanks to the intelligent diligence of their amazing King.
In the list of nations Thailand is ranked 92 by the UNDP’s development indicators.
Seen from a grass-root perspective, the history of the Chakri Dynasty is, from day one, a long, heavy story of mass resistance to insensitive, violent repression, brutal ‘thai-ification’ and cruel loss of innocent life.
Just recently we have seen childish attempts to classify people as ‘true Thai’, ‘good people’ or even ‘true Red Shirts’. These are surface reflections of a Thai sickness that is rooted in the delayed death or forced extension of Thai-centric, monarcho-militarism alongside the stifling of democratic processes.
Today, more than half a century behind schedule, the people of Siam are realising that, in their efforts to stand up and fight for equality, justice and democratic rights, they are doing what they must – and that billions of other people across the planet are or have done the same.
For how much longer can the Royal Thai Army hold 65 million people hostage to the monarchy? NOT MUCH LONGER!
The peoples of Siam are beginning to understand that they must unmask both themselves and the monarchy.
Great numbers of people are beginning to recognise that, whoever they are, it is in their interest to uphold and respect the universal rights of all ethnic groups within the borders of Thailand – the rights of, for example, the Akha, Burmese, Chinese, Hmong, Indian, Khmer, Karen, Lanna, Lao, Malay, Mon, Shan, Vietnamese and some 30 other ethnic identities.
Although there are some examples of non-violent revolution, establishing a People First Agenda has never been easy.
In stepping out of the crypt of monarchist propaganda, our long-overdue revolution should be able to steer a path through the falsehoods of monarchism and nationalism without violence. Why, 80 years after the end of absolute monarchy, is Thailand, a country of boundless opportunity, still stuck in such miserably violent turmoil?
After 2 years of massive demonstrations for and against the monarchy, 30 000 elite soldiers were mobilised in April 2010 to crush a determined group of some thousands of protesters, most of them small farmers, who had occupied a street in downtown Bangkok – with two completely legitimate demands: an immediate General Election to end political manipulation and the return of their hard-won 1997 People’s Constitution – which had been torn up by the military junta after the 2006 Coup
In May, when the military moved in, the protesters fell like leaves from a tree under a hail of bullets.
91 were shot dead, two thousand were wounded,
This was the fifth (5) bloody massacre of innocent civilians on the streets of Bangkok, carried out by the Royal Thai Army, since 1973.
On 12 June we published Why I don’t Love the King in English, and in Thai on 24 June – our Democracy Day. Six months later we started to write an essay called Overcoming Fear of Monarchy in Thailand – as an exercise in exorcising fear of state violence.
In facing anxiety, fear and corruption before the 2006 military coup – to be able to keep going – we would say to ourselves . . “Never mind the dirty politics and all the corruption, as long as we hold together and keep working with popular education and empowerment, especially of working women, we will gradually find our way.”
After the 2006 Coup our perception of how to struggle against the autocracy began to change. After seeing how willing the Government was to use live ammunition against the people in 2010, many people understood that Thailand was entering the final phase of our 100-year revolution.
At a time when the peoples of the world are attempting to tune-in to saving the planet from global warming, the people of Siam should not be stuck in an archaic struggle with His Majesty’s Privy Council and some thick-headed generals, all bent on dragging Thailand back to the Middle Ages.
No self-respecting people can stand by and watch the military crush, with royal blessings, a Government elected with the massive support of the people, and allow the King’s Privy Council to blandly replace it with a junta with the ridiculous name of ‘Council for Democratic Reform Under Constitutional Monarchy’.
The 2006 Coup proved what the people have always known: the monarchists have no intention of respecting democracy Under monarchy the people of Siam will never achieve democracy.
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The 2006 Coup sent explosive waves through the whole population. People from all walks of life began to recognise that there must come major changes – in the manner in which Thailand is governed.
The Red Shirt Movement that emerged to oppose the royalist (Yellow Shirt) extremists also began to realise it was time to break taboos and focus on the role of the monarchy.
How to stop the monarcho-militarists from opening fire? How to stop them reducing Thailand to mayhem and ridicule? How to remove the power of the Privy Council to sabotage the democratisation process?
There are certainly some block-head generals who would like to smash as many skulls as they could, but we must assume that most monarchists do not want either civil war or a drawn-out low-level war of attrition.
It is obviously critical that all political groupings reject all undemocratic strategy and pull together to implement an all inclusive open, free and fair General Election.
Thailand needs a ‘New Parliament’ whose first priority is, in the name of peace, to remove forever the power of the Privy Council and the Army to interfere in Parliamentary decision-making. If the people of Siam and the True Thai want to become a modern country, all must rise up from the back-biting and concentrate on building and strengthening fully-representative parliamentary democracy.
Instead of just imagining they are superior, the whitened faces of the True Thai could think about proving that they are at least decent people – by honouring and supporting their brothers and sisters who sweat under the burning sun to produce the good food they consume.
If those who have accepted the Order of the Crown want to stop their crown being trampled in the mud, instead of cowering behind the Royal Guard, they could bandy together up front and tell the Privy Council to send the soldiers home – and stay out of politics.
The game of ‘Blind Man’s Bluff’ played by the international community and the tourist industry with the monarchist’s concept of Thainess is far too convenient. For the sake of sustainable development and long-term peace in Indo-China, the international community must speak out against the cruel, murderous, blatant, political corruption in Thailand, and speak up far more clearly for the grass-root struggle of the majority of people – for democracy.
If Thailand is to find the road to democracy and sustainable development the monarcho-militarists – the Old Power Gang – must step aside completely.
All my friends and millions of comrades are engaged in every-day struggle against corruption and injustice. I Thailand tens of thousands brace themselves to travel long distances to demonstrate. Many live with fear of sudden arrest, of being beaten and imprisoned.
Large numbers of ordinary people face governmental abuse, mild or extreme, on a daily basis. Partly through fear of lès majesté, partly as a result of censorship, partly because decades of royalist propaganda have been successful, few cases of victimisation reach the international press.
Friends who know my work have shown concern for my safety – and told me to stay outside Thailand – for the time-being. What I am writing about Thailand cannot be written from within Thailand at the present moment.
Our immediate task is to make it impossible for the Royal Thai Armed Forces to disrupt, bully and threaten our democratic processes.
For the time-being, I must monitor and evaluate the situation from the outside, where I am better able to piece together the aspects of the crisis and work to focus attention, at home and abroad, on how we can ensure a non-violent transition to full democratic governance.
We will remember, honour and respect the thousands of lives that have been lost struggling for democracy, the people who have sacrificed themselves to free us from subservience to a thoroughly corrupt, hegemonic, monarchist order.
In the name of freedom and democracy we cannot be stopped from building solidarity for equal rights.