Scroll down your Facebook news updates, and you may see that many users have superimposed the words “Nation, Religion, King” on their profile pictures.
There’s a trend of affirmation by many Facebook users in their loyalty to the Thai kingdom’s three pillars, as represented in the national flag’s tri-color.
Red for the country. White for religion. Blue for the king.
This affirmation has also been picked up by the pro-government movement, raising their version of the three-finger salute to represent the three pillars.
They raise the middle, ring, and pinky fingers. In contrast, pro-democracy protestors give The Hunger Games salute of the index, middle, and ring fingers.
But what do the three pillars mean?
The democratic interpretation
If we were to decipher the meaning based on the democratic concept, it’s straightforward.
The country is a piece of land on which 69 million people live. Together, 69 million is Thailand, and Thailand is 69 million. It doesn’t matter the race, creed, breed, or political affiliation.
Traditionally, religion is Buddhism. But officially, all practicing religions in Thailand are recognized.
The kingship represents the government system of constitutional monarchy. In this system, the elected civilian government manages the country, while the king acts as the state’s symbolic head.
The traditional interpretation
Historically, the Theravada Buddhist tradition’s foundation imported from India and Sri Lanka formed the Thai social structure. Ours was similar to Laos’ and Cambodia’s in the past until colonialism and communism changed their societies’ fabric.
In this tradition, the king is the earthly incarnation of the Lord Buddha. Rather than descending to nirvana, he chose to remain in the earthly realm to be “father to the land” and “father to his children.”
Hence, we witness Thais today referring to the country as “belonging to the father” and that those who “do not love the father must get out.”
As well, we see the notion that the people “are allowed to live here by the kindness and generosity of the father, and hence the people owe gratitude and loyalty.”
Based on the traditional interpretation of Thailand’s three pillars, these beliefs are correct.
Red: It may take a group of people to make a country, but those people and the land they live in belong to the king.
White: The religion is the king, as the king is the Lord Buddha’s earthly incarnation.
Blue: The king is the king.
Hence, the tri-color of the Thai national flag represents Thailand’s kingship.