By Pravit Rojanaphruk
Some Thais just hate other Thais who think differently, especially when it comes to the issue of the monarchy.
Supot and Supat Silarat, who last week assaulted Worachet Pakeerut, leader of the Nitirat group of law lecturers who proposed an amendment to the draconian lese majeste law, told police the attack sprang from “differences in opinions”.
The twin brothers are not alone. Many ultra-royalists quickly expressed “gratitude” to Supot and Supat, for what they did to Worachet, on social media and pro-royalist news websites such as ASTV Manager Daily, while some even called for stronger action. Almost no royalists of public prominence came out to denounce the attack.
Contrasting opinions about the role of the royal institution and the right to openly criticise it have been treated by ultra-royalists as a cancer that must be eradicated, suppressed or denied at all cost.
Given the situation, the question that society ought to ask is, “Why do some Thais have difficulties dealing with differing opinions, especial on the monarchy?”
To be fair to the 30-year-old twin brothers and other ultra-royalists who believe the attack was justified, society must recognise that the decades of positive-only news and information disseminated through mainstream mass media and other channels about the royal family, means that many Thais regard the King as almost infallible and semi-divine, if not divine. Non-mainstream information about the monarchy has long been suppressed or censored.
Given this situation, these people understandably have come to “love” and revere the King to the point where they have become intolerant and hateful of others whom they perceive as a threat to the royal institution.
More often than not, Thai students continue to be taught at schools that there exists only one correct answer. When kids turn into adults, many continue to believe there can only be one correct view and attitude towards the monarchy and are unable to see the validity of other viewpoints.
The same might to be said about some anti-monarchists who cannot understand, or try not to understand, why some remain ultra-royalists despite the obvious one-sided information that society is being fed.
The orthodox fear that, by acknowledging the validity of a differing perspective, the validity of their viewpoint will be diminished and they can’t see that different people may have different priorities or ideologies.
Fear and hatred of people who think differently about the monarchy is a reminder of the challenges that lie ahead. Thai society needs to find ways to accept if not celebrate wide-ranging views on everything, the monarchy included. People must recognise that a society that expects or coerces everyone into thinking alike is nothing but a fascist society, while democracy cannot be achieved if people who think differently have no place to express themselves in public. It’s normal for people to think differently and abnormal to expect millions to think alike.
Even those who may not cherish democracy should recognise that having a population of like-minded people is like growing a mono-crop that is susceptible to being wiped out by insects or plagues. Diversity, including diversity of viewpoint and ideology, is essential for a strong and vibrant society.
Thai society is still far from being able to deal with differences in a constructive manner and people are often told to avoid conflict. Conflict and competition that stem from opposing opinions are inevitable in any open society. It is the inability to deal with that peacefully and constructively that is hindering this society from maturing and becoming truly democratic.
The other option – which is for the authorities as well as some ordinary people to continue to suppress, censor and deny the existence of the spectrum of opinions regarding the monarchy – will lead Thailand nowhere but deeper into the abyss of hatred, violence and ignorance.