At a dinner with friends, they are your typical upper-class Bangkokians. Not elites, but upper class.
As is expected in this day and age, a political conversation ensues. They condemn the youth-led movement, Ratsadon, for being rude, aggressive, and ignorant. But they don’t fault the youth. Instead, they blame Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
There is no doubt in their minds; he’s behind all of this.
Take a look at the cover photo.
Of course, at every Royalist protest, they have many unkind things to say about Ratsadon, but they point the blame at Thanathorn.
General Prayut Chan-o-cha and politicians all say the same thing; someone is behind this. Of course, they stop short at naming Thanathorn. But we all know who they mean.
Everyone is convinced, Thanathorn is financing the Ratsadon Movement and has brainwashed the young generation into betraying “nation, religion, and king.”
How has Thanathorn become Thailand’s boogieman?
Whether or not Thanathorn or anyone else is financing Ratsadon, all we need is evidence, which no one has yet to provide.
But since establishing Future Forward in March 2018, Thanthorn has been guilty of a great sin: He kept talking about change. He wouldn’t shut up about change.
It was a change 6,254,726 Thai people of voting age believed in. So they cast their ballots for Future Forward in the 2019 general election, translating to 81 MP seats.
The fact that Future Forward is now Move Forward, with 54 MP seats, while Thanathorn is banned and up on criminal charges, is a testament that Thailand’s powers-that-be does not believe in change.
But while his political power dwindled, his social influence has been immeasurable.
Since 2018, whether by accident or by design, Thanathorn has fermented a revolution of the mind that has led to the young people’s present cultural revolution.
There is an unwritten social contract that binds the Thai people together. The inferior (“poo-noi”) submits to the superior (“poo-yai”). This is how our national psyche is framed. This is how our culture is engineered. This is the thread that binds our social relationship of authority and voluntary submission.
You can legislate new laws and rewrite the constitution ten times over. Still, neither is nearly as powerful as the cultural mindset that has been engineered through centuries and history – and that mindset is being challenged.
If the people no longer submit to the inferior status, then the hierarchy begins to crumble.
What if the people stop crawling and kowtowing? What if the people stop referring to the elites as “ท่าน” [tan]? What if the people believe that they are equal to everyone else, no matter the wealth, ranks, or titles?
Twenty years ago, it was scandalous to question authority figures openly.
Four months ago, it was unimaginable that Thais would openly discuss the monarchy.
What happened last night, 8 November, was unprecedented.
Ratsadon marched to the Grand Palace to submit letters to King Rama 10, with an envelope addressing him by his first name. The official letter’s content explained to the king how a king should behave.
Think about it in the context of Thai culture, a group of tweenies addressing the king by his first name and writing a letter explaining how the king should behave.
It’s not only unprecedented. It’s a world turn upside down.
After firing water cannons into the crowd, the police commander told the protestors he could not let them pass, for the area he’s guarding is a sacred site.
“Sacred” is the keyword.
Ratsadons are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution, and Royalists blame Thanathorn for it.
Many reasons drive Thailand’s rapid and dramatic cultural revolution.
Today’s youths have a world of knowledge in the palm of their hands, after all. But one important reason is, since March 2018, Thanathorn has set an example of defiance.
Today, the tweenies of the Ratsadon Movement are defying Thailand’s most sacred institution.
And to the oldies of the Royalist Movement, Thanathorn is to blame.