Thailand: Kingdom in crisis-Andrew Macgregor Marshall
February 18, 2012
Andrew Macgregor Marshall
Thai E-news: February 15, 2012
Thailand is a kingdom in crisis, skidding towards catastrophe. Haunted by the unquiet ghosts of a feudal and despotic past, and stricken by fear of a desolate future, it has become a nation frozen in time, caught in a toxic cycle of violence and repression. The escalating social and political conflict gripping modern Thailand is a struggle to find legitimate answers to profound questions: Do all of Thailand’s people deserve equal rights? How should democracy work in Thailand? What does it mean to be Thai? These are issues that cannot be avoided as Thai society evolves and becomes increasingly aware and sophisticated. The country’s people need to seek answers that will heal their bitter divisions and allow Thailand to move forward. There is only one way to find answers to such immense and important questions: Thailand’s people need to talk.
But a suffocating silence is being imposed on Thailand. Powerful forces are determined to strangle any open and honest national debate about what kind of country it should be in the 21st century. Thais are not even permitted to publicly acknowledge some of the most basic realities of their history and politics. Telling the truth has become, quite literally, a crime. People are expected to believe a set of idealized fairy tales and fables — or at least pretend that they do — and to close their eyes to the disaster unfolding in their country.
And so, as if trapped in a traumatic dream from which it is unable to awaken, Thailand wearily stumbles towards a calamity that everyone knows is coming but feels powerless to prevent. The burning questions facing Thailand’s people will not go away just by being ignored, and if they are not resolved through discussion, they will be settled in blood.
It seems clear to every sane observer of Thailand that there is only one way for the country’s crisis to be resolved peacefully: the palace needs to evolve, and to conform to the norms of constitutional monarchy similar to other functioning democracies around the world. However much some Thai royalists may wish that they could stop clocks from ticking and freeze time in some ancient era, they cannot. The world around them has changed, and the monarchy needs to change with it.
The biggest danger to the Thai monarchy, and to the prospects of Thailand developing peacefully into a more prosperous and democratic country, is the blinkered refusal of the ultra-royalists to even consider change. The 2006 coup, the royalist interventions in 2008, the crushing of the red shirt protests in 2010, the shocking surge in lese majeste charges, and most recently the frenziedly hostile reaction to the reasonable suggestions of the Nitirat group, all show that far from accepting the need for reform, the extreme royalists are digging in and preparing for battle. Their actions are disastrous both for the palace and for Thailand.
For too long, it has been these extremist ultra-royalists who have been setting the political agenda in Thailand. Their ugly ideology has dragged the country from one disaster to another. This needs to stop.
It is time for all sensible, progressive Thais – whatever their political views and stance towards the monarchy – to stand up and take their country back from the extremist royalists who are leading it towards ruin. Thais need to understand that debate about the role of the monarchy and military in their future is not only legitimate – it is essential. It is time to begin a respectful, open and honest dialogue that brings Thailand back from the brink.
The real enemies of Thailand are not those who want to debate their future, but those who seek to prevent this debate. It’s time to be very clear: those who oppose discussion, and oppose reform of 112, are not acting in the best interests of the Thai people. Their day is over.
It doesn’t require violence. It doesn’t need a revolution. If Thais who love their country want to do something positive, they just need to understand that discussing and debating their future is their right, and they should do so without fear. Courage is contagious, and the more that do it, the more will be inspired. That is the way for Thailand to move forward in the 21st century.