'Animal Farm' wins over Prayut

Members of the 'V2902' Facebook page gather at Chatuchak Park to read Animal Fam after the book was recommended by Prime Minsiter Prayut Chan-o-cha. (Photo by Pattarapong Chatpattarasill)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha triggered a storm of debate on Thursday when he recommended that people read George Orwell's Animal Farm, a novel satirising the brutal former dictator of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin.

The 1945 novel, in which animals are personalised with a pig becoming a leader in a game of power, also alludes to events that led to the Russian Revolution.

Gen Prayut admires the novel's content which provides "thought-provoking lessons", deputy government spokesman Werachon Sukondhapatipak said when he unveiled the premier’s book pick on Wednesday.

Politicians and scholars reacted by linking Animal Farm with the post-election scramble for government posts, though Lt Gen Werachon on Thursday insisted Gen Prayut did not mean to connect everything in the book to the state of Thai politics currently, instead offering a perspective of his own. 

Gen Prayut's interpretation of the novel is that it teaches people that it is impossible to satisfy everyone's desires and that  “man must take good care of the surroundings. Every living thing must help each other”, Lt Gen Werachon said.

However, Phichai Rattanadilok na Bhuket, dean of the School of Social and Environmental Development under the National Institute of Development Administration, saw only references to politics.

The recommendation can be interpreted as a “symbolic gesture” from Gen Prayut indirectly pointing to negotiations on power-sharing or a reference to cruelty under a dictator. The novel depicts that the true nature of a ruler is one who is only good to his supporters but not his opponents, Mr Phichai wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit used the book’s messages to attack the National Council for Peace and Order, which seized power in a coup five years ago.

Referring to a famous quote from Animal Farm: "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” Mr Thanathorn said via Tweeter that his party will not let anybody to be “more equal than others”.

He added the hashtag “time’s up for the ruling pig” which in Thai translates as mot wela mu khlong mueang.