The message of the Thammasat University protestors on 10 August was for Thailand to become a democratic constitutional monarchy. The effect it had on the traditionalists, from the working class to the prime minister, is something else.
“อย่ายํ่ายีหัวใจของประชาชน” (do not trample on the heart of the people).
It’s a reaction driven by emotion and based on the following belief, “แผ่นดินนี้อยู่รอดปลอดภัยมาเพราะสถาบันพระมหากษัตริย์” (this land is safe and whole because of the monarchy institution).
Therefore, even if the demand is for a democratic constitutional monarchy, the traditionalists believe this, ““กินข้าวเจ้ามาทั้งชีวิต ยังคิดอกตัญญู” (you have eaten royal rice all your life, and you dare to betray).
You may argue that it’s the farmers who plant the rice, and it is you who buy the rice with your own money. But they would reply that the land belongs to the monarchy, and hence everything else in it, including you and your money.
Traditionalists have every democratic right to this belief system.
They are entitled to believe 69 million Thai people exist at the mercy, kindness, and generosity of the monarchy, that this entire country belongs to the monarchy.
However, because there are disagreements in society, traditionalists are encouraged to debate the protestors on every single point. If anyone dares to question the monarchy in any way, traditionalists should take that person to the task and defeat their arguments through a dialogue of logic and reason.
As educated people should do.
We are all entitled to our belief system. Beliefs are emotional, a matter of the heart. But in a civilized society, when we disagree, we debate and exchange ideas.
Wage a war of intellects. Let knowledge and reason be your weapons.
If we cannot reach a consensus, then we may agree to disagree and respect each other’s right to their belief.
As civilized people should do.
Even if you want to get down and dirty, discard all the politeness of social convention, that’s fine too. Call names. Make insults. Write mean posts. Create sarcastic hashtags.
These are the rights guaranteed by democratic governance.
Then, let the future of Thailand be decided through a free and fair democratic system.
But do not resort to backward barbarism.
It takes a special kind of backwardness and barbarity to make threats of violence and prison sentences. Simply because someone has a different belief system, prefers a different political system from yours, and wants to build their future to be different from your past and your present.
From senators to former protest leaders, they came out to cite the 6 October 1976 Thammasat University massacre as a warning to the Thammasat protestors and others.
From politicians and the prime minister, they issue the law’s threat that carries with it a prison sentence.
In what backward society is having a different opinion or a different belief system considered unlawful? In what barbaric society is it necessary to threaten those who want a different future? In what pre-historic cave is freedom of speech means “you’re only free to speak unless what you say hurt my feelings?”
Why is the older generation more emotionally fragile than Generation Z and Millennials?
If these young people resort to violence, like those who call themselves “poo-yai” in past protests, it would be a different story. But these young people protest peacefully. They want to bring change by legal means.
As an educated and civilized people would.