Red shirts and yellow shirts need to be self-critical and break-away from their political camps, prominent social critic Thirayuth Boonmee says.
Scholar Thirayuth Boonmee gives a speech yesterday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Oct 14, 1973 student uprising at the October 14 Memorial site at Kok Wua intersection. APICHART JINAKUL
In a speech which also coined some colourful phrases to describe political leaders, the social critic said the colour-coded groups should work to achieve the more important goal of power decentralisation.
He made his comments in a keynote speech at the Oct 14 Memorial at Kok Wua intersection yesterday to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the student uprising.
"The key issue for our immediate future is corruption and unequal allocation of resources to small entities among stakeholders because business and elite people have won a bigger share and recognition," said Mr Thirayuth, a student leader who steered the protests that culminated in the Oct 14, 1973, crackdown.
In his 80-minute speech before an audience of hundreds, Mr Thirayuth called for political activists and democracy lovers to work towards reducing state-centralised power.
Mr Thirayuth asked why the red shirts, who claim to represent the grassroots people, do not ask the ruling Pheu Thai Party to decentralise power, and why they have never discussed the pros and cons of the government's populist policies.
He said the yellow shirts also should ask conservatives to accept true decentralisation of power to the people, so as to bring about true reconciliation.
The elite class and conservatives should break away from their narrow-minded mentality and consider their limitations and try to modernise themselves, he said.
This requires the courage to look clearly at how the various dimensions in society have been interacting and responding to one another, he said.
Another coup would bring high casualties, as the conservative forces no longer enjoy the same influence as they once did, Mr Thirayuth said.
Since the change in the country's administration in 1932 from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, only a handful of people had benefited from what is called "democracy", he said.
Even after the Oct 14 clashes, students, intellectuals and middle-class Thais lavishly and wastefully exploited the state of democracy as it existed then, opening the door for groups of capitalists who were freed from military and police control to reap the benefits for themselves.
From 1932 to Oct 14, 1973, the armed forces and the conservatives grasped political power and joined hands to fight communism, particularly during the bloodshed of Oct 6, 1976.
After the May 1992 incident, the military, which played a major role in the 1932 revolution, went back to being loyal to the monarchy. Their focus has since been on "the nation, religion and the King", he said.
Old-fashioned capitalist groups pay no attention to democracy, but cling firmly to the royal institution and the armed forces for their business interests, he said.
On political culture, Mr Thirayuth said society is plagued by the patronage system or, in harsher words, is a society of servants.
He said that since Thais like to use the word "khee" (faeces) to describe people, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra can be described as the "khee kham" of Thai politics.
He said "khee kham" is a hardened lump of faeces that blocks the rectum and is hard to remove.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra can be described as "khee yong" or "khee bae", Mr Thirayuth said. He explained "khee yong" is usually used to describe a young woman who likes to be well-dressed and always looks beautiful, while "khee bae" means those who appear to be easy-going and not serious about anything.
Mr Thirayuth said Thai society should not consider conflicts regarding Thaksin, the red shirts and yellow shirts as a national crisis any more. They are just a problem which needs to be solved.
The country's real crisis is about the lack of good governance and proper mechanisms to get rid of corruption, he said. Attempts to solve these problems with a coup had proved to be a mistake.
Populism, which the Pheu Thai Party can deploy to repeatedly win elections, is not a democratic problem either, he said. It is an economic problem, and business groups or people who stand to lose as a result of populism should protest or rise against it.