What is in a name? Contrary to what Juliet Capulet said, the answer can be many things.
Consider the name Pitak Siam _ protecting Siam _ for example. The name of the latest anti-government group, headed by retired general Boonlert Kaewprasit, alone raises many sharp, ironical questions about its whole existence and objective.
What is Siam? What is the group's idea of Siam? If there was such an idea, has it been communicated to members of the public so that those who choose to attend the rally understand clearly what they are doing to achieve what objective?
Let's assume the group made a conscientious choice when it decided to call itself an organisation that is out to protect "Siam".
We know that Siam is the old name of our country but we haven't used that name for at least seven decades. What does it stand for today? A Google search turns out these top entries: Siamsport, Siam University, Siam Phone, Siam Zone and Siam Fishing.
What is the "Siam" that Gen Boonlert's group wants to protect?
Siam was adopted as the name of the country from the early Rattanakosin era. It was changed to Thailand in 1939, under the premiership of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsongkram.
Considering what Gen Boonlert has articulated in interviews to the press about his group's activities and what his own vision was in rallying the anti-Thaksin and anti-government base, it's possible the group chose the name Pitak Siam to connote a general yearning to return to the kingdom's old days. After all, Gen Boonlert did say he would rather see the country being "frozen" for a few years than to see it progressing in the way that it is.
The general did not specify, however, which aspects of more than a century of Siamese society he would like Thailand to return to. To absolute monarchy? To the time when we still had slaves? To the strict political and social hierarchy that allowed little exchanges and movements among people from different strata which might contribute to the perception of the time being peaceful and harmonious?
More importantly, does Gen Boonlert genuinely believe his wish can be realised? That he could force back time and "freeze" people in today's Thai society, most of them armed with iPhones and WiFi and connected with one another almost at the speed of thought, to stand still, be contented and not strive for more?
After all, who can triumph over progress?
Gen Boonlert's latest move is to call on 1 million people to gather at the Royal Plaza next weekend in an attempt to topple the government. He said if the turnout is less than that, he will stop organising anti-government rallies.
I don't mean to be a square-head but does the general know what he is talking about?
The Royal Plaza covers an area of about 13,000 sq m. If we assume that each square metre can hold three or four people, then the maximum number of people that can show up there would be somewhere between 39,000 and 52,000.
That is a far cry from the million-people mark that Gen Boonlert set for himself, is it not? The question then is: has he purposely set himself up to fail? Or does he have something up his sleeve that will ensure the life of his protest will be prolonged, even if there is no way he will have a date with a million people at the Royal Plaza next Saturday?
How about I leave the scepticism aside, cut Gen Boonlert some slack and say we will not be too strict with the exact number of participants to his second rally. As long as more people turn up in the second round than the first one, we could say it's reason enough for him to carry on. But the question remains about where he would carry on to. What type of "frozen" society will Gen Boonlert lead the Thai public to if he succeeds in toppling the democratically elected government and possibly the whole idea of democracy too?
If the "Siam" which Gen Boonlert wants to protect and pursue means a Siam that lacks progress and freedom, he'd better spell it out now, loud and clear.
Atiya Achakulwisut is Deputy Editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Atiya Achakulwisut
Position: Deputy Editor (Day)