The massacre of civilians in the event known as Black May 1992.
The robbery of democracy on 22 May 2014, by a military coup.
This week marks two important anniversaries that together illustrate how Thailand’s national destiny is paved by the will and the whim of lords and generals. .
In a span of 22 years, the people of Bangkok went from marching for democracy and against military rule, to marching to prevent a democratic election and welcoming a military coup.
Why? Because in 1992, no faction claimed to “defend the monarchy”. The narrative was simple and true, it was a conflict between democracy and military rule.
But for the past 16 years of the Thai political conflicts, the narrative became muddled and dishonest. One faction waves the banner of “defending the monarchy,” therefore tricking the people into believing there are two opposing choices.
Monarchy versus Democracy
Once upon a time, somebody told somebody, there’s a “threat to the monarchy”. It went viral. Somebody also explained to somebody, the “threat to the monarchy” comes from those who want democracy. This too went viral.
When it comes to choosing between “monarchy” and “democracy,” conservative Thais, especially among the Bangkok middle and upper class, choose the former, always. Even at the price of military coup and dictatorship.
But the premise is false.
Monarchy and democracy aren’t opposing choices. They are not adversarial. One is not a threat to the other. In fact, evidence from across the modern world, from England to Japan, proves that monarchy and democracy coexist and prosper together.
But of course, there’s a small price that goes by the name of freedom of speech, which is a cornerstone of democracy. Therefore, in the democratic system, the monarchy, just as democracy, is subjected to criticism.
But criticisms are no threat.
Tweeting unsavory comments in 280 characters or less is no threat to anyone, let alone the powerful institution that is the monarchy, anywhere in the world.
Thaksin Shinawatra was never a threat to the monarchy. It was never within his power to be of any threat. The Future Forward Party, back when there was such a thing, was no threat to the monarchy. They wouldn’t even touch the lese majeste law.
In fact, because of checks and balances, in the democratic system, there is no one person or faction that has the power to be a threat to the monarchy.
The government. The opposition. The parliament. The senate. The constitutional court. Independent bodies. The media. The people. All provide checks and balances on each other to ensure transparency and accountability, and that not one person or faction holds too much power. .
Threat to the monarchy
If you look into the Thai history, from the time of the Sukhothai Kingdom to the modern era, the only people who have been able to topple the monarchy or a royal dynasty are those who hold military power.
They are never the peasants, never the commoners, never the people. They are not even rich civilians. They are not the average soldiers either. Centuries ago, they were powerful lords. Today, they are powerful generals.
The name of Khana Rasadorn, which brought down absolute monarchy in the 1932 revolution, is translated to “The Civilian Faction.” But in truth, Khana Rasadorn was made up of two wings: the civilian faction and the military faction.
If it was only the civilian faction marching for a revolution, they would have been squashed. The revolution was a success, because the military had the guns and the tanks to end absolute monarchy.
During the 1930s, when fascism was en vogue, Field Marshal Plaek Pibunsongkhram minimized the importance of the monarchy and put forth his own cult of personality for the Thai people.
In the Cold War era, wars raged across Southeast Asian nations. It was Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who maximized the importance of the monarchy, in order to rally the Thai people against communist threats.
Both men were able to do so, because they held military power.
The threat to both the monarchy and to democracy is military power.
Threat to democracy
The facts speak for themselves. We’ve been hoodwinked. Hogwashed. Bamboozled.
In every democratic country, politics is divided between the conservatives and the liberals. But no matter how much they throw hell, fire and brimstone at each other, both sides operate within the same political foundation, democracy.
In Thailand, we also are divided between the conservatives and the liberals, but there is no political foundation. The monarchy is an institution of the few, not a political foundation for the entire population.
However, we are misled into believing there’s a “threat to the monarchy”. Therefore, whenever we throw hell, fire and brimstone at each other, the generals can always swoop in to seize power.
All they have to do is say, “defending the monarchy” and have their puppets sing the same tune to serenade the audience.
As such, the political foundation of Thailand is not democracy and is not based on the rights, liberty and equality of 69 million people. Rather, our political foundation is the will and the whim of lords and generals
The way to get out of this cycle of lies is to not let them fool you, the monarchy is under no threat.
Break the cycle of lies
Unless we the people band together, lords, generals and puppets will always be a threat to democracy and squash our freedom at their will and their whim.
They have been winning, not just because they have guns and tanks, but also because too many of our friends, neighbors and family members believe the lies and are misled to cheer for coups and dictatorships.
To conquer us, they have divided us.
We the people, whether conservatives or liberals, can argue all day and every day, 27 hours a day and nine days a week.
We can throw hell, fire and brimstone over traditions, appropriateness, Thainess and un-Thainess; over classism, racism, sexism and any other kind of -ism.
We can battle it out on social media and at the ballot box in a free and fair election, not one with 250 junta-handpicked senators and a funny calculater. .
But if the tanks come out singing “return happiness…” we all need to band together and say, “Get back into your barracks, uncle. This is not what we are paying you for.”
For Thailand to move forward, we must have a political foundation that is fair and just for all 69 millions of us. Flawed though it may be, there is no better choice than democracy.
To defend both the monarchy and democracy, is to bring military power under the control of the people, which is the democratic system, in which the military is subordinated to the elected government.