Draped in yellow shirts, the people gathered yesterday in Chonburi Province to show love and support for the monarchy institution. They raised portraits of the king.
A photo of one lone man hit the internet. At the foot of a BTS station, he raised the king’s portrait.
#เรารักสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์ (we love the monarchy institution) has been trending for two days in a row on Twitter.
Words and portraits sing praises mostly of King Rama 9, far less of King Rama 10.
Meanwhile, General Prayut Chan-o-cha declared he would die for the monarchy.
Love the king, respect the monarchy, but let’s have a rational dialogue.
If we are to champion democratic ideals, then we must respect the rights of all humans. To demonstrate love and respect for the monarchy institution and the king, any king, is the right of every citizen.
We must also recognize that the national conversation is currently less about legal reforms, democracy, and the constitution.
Instead, it’s about the monarchy institution.
To say “conversation” is to be diplomatic.
In truth, look across social media. These are heated arguments filled with anger that boil down to one demand from the royalists, do not touch the institution.
Many royalists say they are okay with protests against General Prayut, the 250 junta-appointed senators, and authoritarianism in school and society.
But, do not touch the institution.
What is the meaning of “touch?”
No doubt, in some three months of Khana Ratsadon protests, where altogether hundreds of thousands must have joined, and hundreds, if not thousands, have made speeches, there were derogatory comments about the institution.
Hence, royalists are angry.
There are several pieces of graffiti about the “Republic of Thailand,” which also often trends on Twitter. There’s no monarchy in a republic, so royalists fear an overthrow.
Words and trending hashtags are expressions of angry people venting their frustrations, which they have every right to do if we hold to democratic ideals.
We must look beyond “touch” and “overthrow” and focus on the demand to reform the monarchy institution and what it truly means.
Let sanity prevail.
Khana Ratsadon has stressed time and again in their official demands. They want Thailand’s governance to be a democratic constitutional monarchy with the king as the head of state.
As such, there is no overthrowing of the institution.
These are the legal reforms they want to make.
Khana Ratsadon says the king should not endorse the military coups.
They ask: For a country that has been in a vicious cycle of military coups for the past 88 years, should the king continue to endorse military coups?
Should the constitution not illegalize military coups in every possible sense?
Is this not a fair proposition?
Khana Ratsadon agrees that the king’s personal wealth belongs to the king but argues that fundings from the people’s tax should have parliament oversight.
They ask: Is having checks and balances on the people’s money, not good governance?
Khana Ratsadon wants to remove the king’s military power.
They ask: Should a nation have two standing armies under the command of two different institutions, the monarchy and the government?
Is the world not full of histories demonstrating how this isn’t the best idea for any nation?
It’s the translation of the ten demands to reform the monarchy institution by Khana Ratsadon. You may agree with some of them, or not at all.
Again, everyone has the right to their opinion.
But the point is, Thailand must move beyond the words “touch” and “overthrow” and have a rational conversation about the specifics.
Argue the points of the demands. Tear them to shred. Have national debates.
We must untangle ourselves from those two words.
“Touch” has little meaning but the dangerous consequence of more anger, hatred, and more divisiveness.
“Overthrow” is neither true nor even possible without the backing of military power.
If we let these two words dominate our hearts and minds, then likely violence is on the horizon, and of course, the all too familiar consequence of another military coup, which will put Thailand back at zero.
Love the king and respect the monarchy, but let’s have a rational conversation about legal reforms.