Whenever Khana Ratsadon, via the Free Youth Page, posts its usual protest announcement, the language has always been defiant against the Prayut Chan-o-cha Government.
Yesterday’s announcement, however, was defiant of King Rama 10.
The headline is “Very Brave, Very Good,” copying the king’s words said to Thitiwat Tanagaroon, a 49-year-old restaurant manager.
On 20 October, Thitiwat’s photo became news headlines as he stood at the foot of a BTS station, raising the portrait of King Rama 9.
On 23 October, Thitiwat was front-row at the royal walkabout in front of the Grand Palace.
First, the queen recognized him. Then, walking up to Thitiwat, the king patted the shoulder of the man crawling at his feet and said, “Very brave, very brave, very good, thank you.”
The words went viral.
Khana Ratsadon’s announcement tells protestors, at 5pm on 26 October, there will be a march from the Samyan Intersection to the German Embassy. Germany has been the home of King Rama 10 for many years.
The footnote of the announcement reads, “Because we can’t talk sense with the dog, we shall talk to the dog’s owner.” On 22 October’s march to Government House, Khana Ratsadon submitted a resignation letter for General Prayut to sign, with a three-day deadline.
Last night, General Prayut said he wouldn’t resign, which prompted the protest announcement officially in response to the prime minister’s refusal.
In reality, however, the announcement is the first time Khana Ratsadon, as a movement, openly defies the king.
Finally, it has come to this.
Constitutionally and culturally, the Thai monarchy is integral to the Thai nation.
Any genuine democratic reforms will be at the expense of royal power, in the legal sense. A cultural revolution, which is happening right now, is at the cost of royal prestige in the people’s hearts and minds.
For the protestors whose goal is for Thailand to become a democratic constitutional monarchy, this is a “very brave” and “very good” thing to do.
For the monarchy and royalists, the question is: why give away the power of kings’ birthright and the kingdom’s sacred traditions?
Therefore, Khana Ratsadon’s demands conflict with the power and prestige of the monarchy.
And so here we are.
Hardline royalists such as Suwit Thongprasert (Buddha Issara), Rienthong Nanna, and Warong Dechgitvigrom have stepped up to the front line to lead counter-protests by Thais clad in yellow shirts.
Men in military hair-cuts and yellow shirts with blue scarfs around their necks stand to watch at every Khana Ratsadon protests. On the march to Government House last Thursday, a battalion stood ready with military discipline, facing the oncoming protestors.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and they gave ground to allow the police to negotiate with protestors.
But where do we go from here?
The Prayut Government has survived this long due to the power and prestige of the monarchy. He will never resign as long as he has that power and prestige to rely on.
Khana Ratsadon’s official demands are for Thailand to become a democratic constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state.
Monarchy is the king’s power. Democracy is the people’s power. Constitutional monarchy is a shared power between the king and the people.
To achieve Khana Ratsadon’s goal, the king would have to sacrifice some royal power. The question then becomes: Would the king sacrifice some royal power? Thus far, the answer is no.
Will the answer remain, or will the answer change?
Wherever we go from here, Thailand treads on a very thin thread.