Pridi, Thaksin and the royalists-PPT
June 28, 2012
Political Prisoners in Thailand: June 20, 2012
Whenever political tensions rise, senior citizen Prawase Wasi is usually moved to offer “fatherly advice.”
It is his comments on the return of Thaksin to Thailand that caught our eye.
Essentially, Prawase is now saying to Thaksin, “Stay away forever.” He is asking Thaksin to die in exile.
Prawase chooses to point to the example of Pridi, a leader of the Khana Ratsadon that overthrew the absolute monarchy in 1932. That was a year after Prawase was born. The first time Pridi went into exile was 1933, when Prawase was beginning to walk. In November 1947, following a royalist military coup led by Phin Choonhavan, Pridi fled the country again. Prawase was just finishing high school. Pridi tried to come back to Thailand in 1949, but his attempted coup against military leader Plaek Phibulsonggram was defeated. Prawase was studying. Pridi went into exile again, never returning, dying in Paris in May 1983.
Why did Pridi stay away for so long? When he was first exiled, in 1933, it was angry royalists, supported by the palace, that drove him out, accusing Pridi of being a “Bolshevist.” His last exile was essentially prompted by the military, royalists and, most stridently, the Democrat Party accusing Pridi of regicide in the shooting death of Ananda Mahidol.
In an interview in 1980 (a PDF), Pridi commented on his exile to journalist Anthony Paul:
In general, the circumstances are not yet suitable for me to go back…. I’m innocent about the king’s death. And if I return to my country … people would say, “Hah! He’s covered by the statute of limitations on his crime and now he’s coming back.” Therefore, people would say he wasn’t all that innocent since he waited until he was covered by the statute…. It is a question of honour and equity not a legal question.
Pridi may not have had a legal case to answer, but he still stood accused by royalists. It does not seem that Pridi was especially bothered by possible conflicts but by the fact that royalists – he refers to “his enemies” – continued to make false claims that Pridi was guilty of regicide.
He goes on to explain that he had sued a journalist and the hideously royalist Kukrit Pramoj for libel and won when they accused him of killing the king. He states that he always wins these cases.
Pridi was forever hated in the palace and by royalists for being the mastermind behind the 1932 Revolution. Astoundingly, that hatred remains today. Accusing Pridi of regicide was one of the ways by which the royalists could keep this popular politician from power.
In fact, while Pridi and Thaksin are very different figures, the problem in both cases appears to be with the royalists. Their desire to maintain social, political and economic dominance means that they have to beat down any popular politician, and especially politicians who appear to have betrayed the royalist elite.