SUNDAY, April 21, 2024
We Thais need to stop screaming conspiracies and start talking sensibly
By Voranai Vanijaka

On the BTS Skywalk, pro-monarchy activists attacked monarchy-reform activists. On social media, netizens clash over the lese majeste law, the amnesty bill, arrested journalists, and the royal motorcade incident. In Parliament, inflammatory accusations echo in the chamber.

Digging out a charge from a year ago, the police arrested journalists (now out on bail) for allegedly conspiring with an activist to spray paint the anarchist symbol on the wall of the Emerald Buddha Temple. The charge carries a sentence of up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to 1 million baht.

Activists demanding reform of the monarchy have also been arrested without bail for speeding and honking at a royal motorcade, causing “disruption” and “endangerment”. They face charges under the Sedition Act, which carries up to seven years’ imprisonment.

A sensible debate should be over whether an act can be considered a crime or whether the punishment fits the crime. Instead, reactionary rhetoric is being unleashed that provokes paranoia, fear, anger, and hatred from the lips of those who are supposed to keep society calm and sensible.

Deputy Interior Minister Chada Thaiseth threw accusations of “behind the scenes movement” and “overthrow”, rounding off with the catchphrase, “get out of this country”. National Police chief General Torsak Sukvimol announced that protecting the monarchy was the Royal Thai Police’s top priority. He pledged to expose the “behind the scenes movement”, step up security, and sacrifice his life to protect the royal motorcade. Defence Minister Suthin Klungsang stated that protecting the monarchy was of the utmost importance to the military, and the army would step in should the police require assistance.

Meanwhile, senators, government politicians, and civil servants donned purple in support of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who was in the royal motorcade. The Chulalongkorn University alumni event was filled with people wearing purple shirts.

At the heart of the issue is the meaning of Thailand’s system of governance, “Democracy with the King as the Head of State”. Therefore, allow me to write here what I’ve been posting on Thai social media in the hopes of nurturing some sense and sensibilities:

To insist on good governance and just laws is not to overthrow. It is possible to demand political evolution, while at the same time being loyal to the institution; to fight social inequality, while respecting the institution; and to reform economic injustice, while honouring the institution. Democratic governance and the institution can nurture one another.

Both the institution and the Thai people deserve better than the patronage rule of the deep state by generals who fancy themselves as medieval warlords, political barons who behave as feudal lordlings, and big capitalists with delusions of the Rothschilds of Southeast Asia, monopolising political power while breeding social inequality and economic injustice that has left Thailand in a state of a Third World-esque banana kingdom stuck in the Cold War era.

Thailand deserves better than this, and it starts with a sensible conversation.