As the nation’s “heart and soul,” the monarchy’s prestige rests upon the people.
In today’s big protest, 8 November, the Ratsadon Movement will submit letters to the king. For the first time in Thai history, the people are directly taking the king to task on Thailand’s affairs.
But there’s also another development.
The national reconciliation committee proposed by Chuan Leekpai will make up of former prime ministers.
Anand Panyarachun, General Surayud Chulanont, Abhisit Vejjajiva, General Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, and possibly Somchai Wongswat. But not the Shinawatra siblings, Thaksin and Yingluck, as they are political refugees living abroad.
But while Thaksin will not be there, both General Chavalit and Somchai will be his representatives. The former is a long-time political ally; the latter is his brother in law.
There is no conciliation without truth. Thailand doesn’t put much faith in this national reconciliation committee, and the country has had dozens of them over the past decade. None ever amount to anything. Even the rival parties, the Prayut Regime and the Ratsadon Movement, give this committee no credit.
Nonetheless, strategically speaking, the committee is useful in the court of public opinion and adds needed pressure on the Prayut Regime.
At the moment, the political divide is between the Prayut Regime and the new generation. To create more pressure for General Prayut to resign or for the king to request his resignation, Ratsadon needs more support.
Anand, Surayud, and Abhisit represent the old elites. Anand and Abhisit have loyal followings among the older generation Bangkok middle and upper classes. As such, their words and political stance matter to this demographic.
The old elites are the legacy of King Rama 9’s era. They are civilian and military leaders who are conservative but moderate. They included the late General Prem Tinlasulanondha.
Thailand, however, is currently run by the new elites. There are no civilian leaders here. The new elites are military leaders, such as General Prayut, General Prawit Wongsuwan, General Apirat Kongsompong, and others. They are a throwback to Cold War-style military strongmen.
Any resolution from the committee would not have legal consequences. But it will impact the mindset of the people. Anand has recently suggested for General Prayut to resign. Ahead of the 2019 election, Abhisit announced he would not support General Prayut.
Throw in Chavalit and Somchai, and the committee’s resolution will likely be “Prayut, get out,” and “amend or rewrite the constitution.” Though perhaps not “reform the monarchy institution,” as yet.
Ratsadon will then have the old elites on their side in two out of the three core demands.
The new elites are afraid of this. If we want to know what the new elites are thinking or feeling, observe the actions of Palang Pracharat MPs Pareena Kraikrupt, Sira Janejaka, and Paiboon Nititawan. They are General Prawit’s propaganda Gestapo, whose job is to attack with rabid passion anyone or anything the new elites find threatening.
Chuan Leekpai is their current target because they know the old elites and their supporters going over to the side of Ratsadon will further weaken General Prayut’s position.
Change is not all hell, fire, and brimstone. Strategically, Ratsadon should make use of the old elites in their fight against the new elites.
There is no such thing as a perfect alliance where all goals are shared. Nonetheless, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” as the saying goes.