The hashtag “#ไม่สู้ก็อยู่อย่างไทย” is deliciously sarcastic.
It means, “if we don’t stand up and fight, then we must live like the Thai people.
In other words, like slaves.”
This is in reference to how the people of Myanmar unite to stand against the military coup and the generals.
Meanwhile, the people of Thailand — well, let’s say, half of us — roughly, give or take — call for and cheer for coups and are content to live under the rule of the generals.
The question then is why? Why are we like this? It’s quite disturbing, it really is.
To answer, let’s first post this question:
To whom does Thailand belong?
Ladies and gentlemen, if you ask a democratist, his answer would be, it belongs to the people, all 69 million of us.
After all, the core value of democracy is human rights, and it is our right to live and breathe on this land, with liberty, justice, and equality under the law.
If you ask a monarchist, the reply would be, it belongs to the father, and we, 69 million people, are his children.
After all, the core value of monarchism is the heavenly power and divine privilege of the kingship, and we are but “prai” (peasants, commoners), who live and breathe on this land at the kindness, generosity, and mercy of his majesty.
Therefore, to a monarchist, his mindset operates on the concept of “บุญคุณแผ่นดิน” (gratitude to the land).
We Thais must have gratitude to the land, which belongs to the father. And with gratitude comes loyalty, worship, and obedience. If we are not obedient, then we are เนรคุณ (ungrateful and traitorous).
But a democratist might ask the monarchist:
Dude, what are you talking about? This land belongs to the people. We even have the land deeds to prove it.
You see, what we have here is the failure of communication.
Two people speaking in two different languages. Because they have two different mindsets. One is a democratist. The other is a monarchist.
And they are both absolutely correct… in the context of their respective political beliefs.
And therein lies the problem.
The Thai political system is neither a democracy nor a monarchy. At the same time, it’s a bit of both, which causes a lot of confusion.
We do have elections, that’s quite democratic.
We also have the lese majeste law and the willingness to use the law like passing out traffic tickets, it’s a characteristic of absolute monarchism.
But if you study further into the Thai political system, you’ll find that the election comes with 250 senators appointed by General Prayut Chan-o-cha to elect General Prayut Chan-o-cha as prime minister.
You’ll also find that General Prayut Chan-o-cha is ultimately responsible for passing out lese majeste left, right, and center, like it’s a ping-pong show on Pattaya Walking Steet, before the pandemic.
See? In both cases, democracy and monarchism, who’s the go-between? General Prayut Chan-o-cha.
What is the power that stands between the monarchy and the people? The power of the generals.
What is the one constant that has been in power, whether from behind the curtain or upfront and in your face, since the 1932 Revolution? The generals.
Within a year of the 1932 Revolution, before there could have been any election, Phraya Phahon (พระยาพหล) launched a coup and became dictator for 5 years, 178 days.
Then Plaek Phibunsongkhram, dictator, 5 years, 229 days.
Since World War 2 and through the 1970s, most civilian leaders never lasted for more than a year.
Less than a handful lasted a little over a year, like M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, one year, 37 days.
None lasted for two years.
The generals? They ruled for years and years. Amassing fortunes in wealth and power.
Sarit Thanarat, 5 years, 49 days.
Thanom Kittikachorn, 9 years, 309 days.
In the 1980s, we had elections. But the MPs knew to elect one person and one person only as prime minister, General Prem Tinlasulanondha, who wasn’t an MP.
Kinda like General Prayut. But fans of General Prem would say, dude, don’t compare to General Prayut, it’s an insult. Fair enough, but I digress.
Then we went through a period of infant democracy disrupted by three coups in 1991, 2006, and 2014.
General Prayut became dictator for over 5 years, then continued in power through the Thai-style electoral system of 250 junta-appointed senators.
Ladies and gentlemen, coups and generals have been in our faces for nearly 90 years, and still going strong.
The question then becomes, while Latin America freed itself from the cycle of coups and dictators. While South Korea and Taiwan freed themselves of dictators. While the people of Myanmar by and large unite against the coup and the generals.
Why then can’t the people of Thailand get out of this cycle? Why then is the rule of the generals remain such a constant in Thai politics? Why is there the hashtag “#ไม่สู้ก็อยู่อย่างไทย”?
Look at the student uprising in the 1970s and in 2020 and this year. Why don’t the rest of the country unite behind the students to champion democracy – rights, liberty, and equality under the law?
I mean, we love these values when we watch Hollywood movies. We like Obama and Biden, but not Trump, yet we vote Prayut, who’s worse than Trump.
Why are we Thai people so confused?
Here’s the answer:
It is because whenever the generals yell the word “monarchy,” immediately, society is divided in half. Frothing at the mouth. Rhymes and reasons fly out the window.
So, to whom does this land belong? It belongs to the generals.
They have the guns, and therefore the physical means to murder democracy and take power.
They have monopolized the belief system of “monarchism,” and therefore the psychological mean to divide and rule the people of Thailand.
The issue is not that we don’t fight. It’s that, we can’t unite.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are the victim of the most cliched political manipulation in the history of humanity:
divide and rule.
The generals are the puppet masters, who also carry guns.
So while the people argue over monarchy and democracy, the generals are — in two words — living large.