For the pro-democracy protesters, the 1932 Revolution by Khana Ratsadon that transformed the kingdom from absolute to constitutional monarchy ought to have been the end of the conversation.
For the past 88 years, Thailand should have been a democracy already. Hence, they named themselves Khana Ratsadon 2020 to carry on the will of the original Khana Ratsadon.
But for Thailand’s traditionalists, the 1932 Revolution was the start of an argument, not the end to anything.
Lieutenant General Soraphot Nirandorn, 76, is the son of Major Sawek Nirandorn, or Khun Nirandornchai, a key member of the 1932 Khana Ratsadon.
This past weekend, surrounded by the media, he conducted a ceremony to seek forgiveness before the portraits and statues of King Rama 7, King Rama 8, and King Rama 9. He offered his apologies for his father’s role in confiscating royal assets following the 1932 Revolution.
His action is a fitting encapsulation of Thailand’s power struggles in the year 2020. This year has been merely a continuation of the 1932 conflict between Khana Ratsadon and the Chakri Dynasty.
What is the traditionalist argument?
The argument is, whether we call it Rattanakosin, Siam, or Thailand, this is the Kingdom of the Chakri Dynasty, and no such foreign things as democratic ideals are going to change that.
Hence, General Prayut Chan-o-cha is the prime minister. Not because he’s a man of democracy, not because he’s the servant of the people, and not because he has any particular skills or talents. He has the only qualification that matters. He’s the defender of the monarchy.
More specifically, he’s the soldier of the Chakri Dynasty. From the Queen’s Tiger Soldier to the King’s General.
What is the Chakri Dynasty?
Ask a traditionalist, and you’ll probably get an answer similar to this:
They are the kings who have built the Thai people’s mightiest kingdom. Since 1782, they have defended and expanded the kingdom. They’ve beaten back successive Myanmar invasions. They have loved and cared for the people. They have modernized the country. They’ve freed the slaves. They’ve protected the people from colonial powers.
In doing so, they had to endure unfair treaties of greedy foreign powers. In 1893, they had to suffer French gunboats on the Chao Phraya River, pointing their guns at the Grand Palace. Yet, they kept the kingdom intact.
We, the people, owe, not just gratitude, but also servitude.
They sent the younger generation to study in the West, to learn from them so that the kingdom may compete with them. But what do these people do? They came back from the West and seized power. Where was their loyalty? Where was their gratitude?
Since 1932, wealth and power have been unjustly seized from the monarchy. Look at the argument over the king’s wealth versus the crown’s wealth. The conclusion is simple. Khana Ratsadon stole what rightfully belonged to His Majesty King Rama 7.
When the older generation complains that young people do not know history, this is the history they refer to.
This land doesn’t belong to the people.
It belongs to the father. The father is the king.
Put a Thai monarchist and a Thai democratist in a room, and one might as well be speaking Klingon, while the other speaking Dothraki. This is because they operate from a different mindset and two sets of opposing belief systems.
The world knows the pro-democracy protesters’ belief system, but what we too casually dismiss is the belief system of millions of Thailand’s yellow-shirt royalists.
Democracy, fascism, socialism, or communism are political systems. Regardless of which system we adopt, Thailand should be as it was since 1782, the Kingdom of the Chakri Dynasty.
We can adapt with the time and integrate democracy into the kingdom, but only as an extension of the kingdom, never its core DNA.
If it takes military coups, 250 junta-appointed senators, and General Prayut to defend the kingdom, then so be it, because in the traditional belief system, loyalty and gratefulness trump any democratic ideals.
This has been the Kingdom of the Chakri Dynasty long before some young upstarts with too many western ideals tried to change things back in 1932. In 2020 and beyond, it’s the same scenario.
But this time, we would not let them gain power. Not again. Never again.
The victors write history. Guess who’s winning.
That’s why we remember Prince Boworadet, who led a royalist faction against Khana Ratsadon in 1933, as a true Thai hero, not a rebel as historians would have us believe.
For it is those leaders of Khana Ratsadon who stole from the king.
That’s why General Prayut was wholeheartedly sincere when he said, “Why must I resign? I have done nothing wrong.”
His duty is to serve the Chakri Dynasty, and that he has done.