Seven years have passed, and we may have to wait and see whether the current situation will end up again with the intervention of the military. However, what we have already realized is that this thoroughly-divided golden axe-like country will never be the same as it was before the political tragedy in 2006.
Yet the recent question was whether this is really an ordinary people’s battle. Some have argued that this struggle is merely the elite’s fight for occupying the authority, in order to gain the administration of the country in the long run. Furthermore, the struggle will only lead to elite’s use of ordinary people, not just to be their tools, but also to be their fools. In this sense, no matter who wins, Thailand will not be so much different from what it has been before.
Actually, it is undeniable that the nuts and bolts of Thai political struggle these days exist in the interests and legitimacy of those who crave to be in power during the upcoming critical juncture. Nonetheless, can one truly say that people’s aspiration for a better society is not really pertinent in this struggle?
Nowadays while anti-government forces are blowing whistle, chanting the soul-stirring song, and simultaneously demanding the preferable political society. They want to replace the remnants of the Thaksin regime by the heavenly-appointed council of elders and righteous minority. Despite calling themselves the “great mass” of the people, their focus is on the morality and scrupulousness rather than on the equality of the Thai citizens. They lately vowed, on behalf of the “patriotic” people, to keep the elections from going ahead next month, in order to implement the plan of setting up an unelected People’s Council, which will run the country in the times of the suspension of democracy.
The absurdity of Suthep& Co. cannot be seen as anything but firm rebuttal of the will and voices of the majority. We must not forget, however, that there remain many others in Thailand who oppose Suthep& Co’s idea; who strongly believe that such a move by Suthep and his supporters will not push the country out of the woods. This group is calling for the February elections and for respecting democracy and the votes of the people. It might be debatable whether parts of this group has also done enough to make the politicians serve their ends.
Arguably, the today’s anti-government’s call for the reforming of the country ahead of elections has its own merit of indicating the pitfall of Thai political system. It might be driven by the people’s distrust of a corrupted government and the parliamentary authoritarianism (though some says it’s all nonsense). However, the autocratic way out that has been proposed is apparently aiming to levy war against the real essence of the sovereignty of the people for whom they take a fool.
Now, does anyone dare to insist that the ordinary people have no interest in this political struggle? Does anyone really believe that whoever wins this fight, Thailand will not be different? The fact that the contestation of power among the ruling elites is the essential part of today’s political conflicts does not justify the irrelevance of the popular power.
Obviously, the Thais cannot simply withdraw themselves from the present conflict. What they are facing is perhaps the problem that was rooted, and has been waiting for them to encounter, since the unfinished revolution of 1932. It is not a simple confrontation between Red shirts and Yellow shirts, nor Thaksin & Co. and Suthep& Co., but the fundamental disagreement between people who yearn to be respected as equal citizens and rely on their own power as the primary source of political legitimacy, and those who ache for the aristocratic rule of presumptuously “good men” and rely on the power of “others”.
The present conflict has spread like wildfire, gradually permeated throughout many aspects of our life. Even though how hard one may try to be apolitical, it has already covered every inch of the society he or she is living in.
So this is our struggle, no doubt!
To think this is all about the ruling elites is nothing but to surrender. For this reason we need to choose. For this reason we need to realize that whatever will happen in the time to come hinged on our decision and the outcome of this political dissension.
This is merely the early step. Despite the argument for universal suffrage and the acceptance of the equality of people being outdated in many countries, Thailand is still struggling with these elementary questions. For there are several unspeakable and omitted subjects in our society, we cannot reach these points without first generally recognizing that all of us are essentially equal.
As some version of history has shown us, the elites and their proxies seems to be able to achieve victory by using the carcass of people as their means. It is unfortunate that we are often their tools and fools, even in the context where we do nothing. Perhaps, the only way to get out of this dilemma is to attempt as much as we can in order to resist the scornful and contemptuous mentalities, and to steadily force the elites to accept our rights, power, and equality.
Thus, the right question to put is “how can we achieve our goals”. Or exactly, as one’s bad joke may go, “how can we achieve our goals alive”.
Reforming the country is inevitably necessary. Constructing and expanding the intellectual society in which the people can discuss and express their opinions and ideas as it continue to happen in some cities such as Chiangmai or Pattani is a very interesting option, so on and so forth.
Our exigent question has arisen and is still waiting for our answers.
Phakin Nimmannorrawong is a MA candidate in History at Thammasat University