Firebrands need maturity
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Firebrands need maturity

A major rally of students and pro-democracy activists scheduled for Wednesday will be a major test of the country's prospects of further developing its democracy.

The chosen day marks the anniversary of the 1973 student-led uprising when hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated against the dictatorship of then prime minister Field Marshal Thanom Kittikhachorn on Ratchadamnoen Avenue, and were attacked by security forces.

In fact, the current political situation has some similarities to that of 47 years ago. The uprising in 1973 derived from student protests against the prolongation of the absolute power of the Field Marshal Sarit Thanarath-Field Marshal Thanom regime which lasted for 16 years. The two field marshals staged self-coups to prolong their power.

In October 1973, students and pro-democracy activists also demanded a democratic constitution.

Back to the current political situation and pro-democracy groups and students have been demanding a new charter aimed at ending the prolongation of the premiership of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha who has run the country for six years after staging a coup in May 2014.

Even though the level of public support differa greatly between now and the 1973 protests, nobody should underestimate the possibility that the current anti-government movement could escalate into another uprising.

Both the government and protesters must do their best to mitigate the risks of violence and show their maturity to ensure peace and order.

The government must be open-minded in listening to protesters and be patient. It should respect the freedom of expression endorsed by the constitution as long as the protest is peaceful.

It needs to admit the constitution was designed under authoritarian rule, paving the way for Gen Prayut to regain his power and premiership with the help of the Senate.

The prime minister should accept that his government failed to push for reform in several key areas as promised.

Following the 2014 coup, the National Strategy Committee chaired by Gen Prayut approved national reforms in 11 key areas to accommodate the ambitious goals set in its 20-year National Strategic Plan.

Those areas comprised politics, national administration, the law, justice process, economy, natural resources and environment, public health, mass communication and information technology, social affairs, energy, and corruption prevention and suppression.

It goes without saying these reforms have not fully materialised and Gen Prayut and the government must accept the criticism.

Intimidation against peaceful protesters must not be allowed.

Lessons learnt from the protest led by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration at Sanam Luang on Sept 19 suggest that provocative remarks aimed at the monarchy have turned away many supporters even they share the anti-dictatorship stance.

If the USTD's hardline leaders, whose stance targets the monarchy instead of the government and charter amendment, are allowed to dominate Wednesday's rally, the whole movement may begin to lose momentum.

Peaceful and mature protests must be the order of the day if they are to gain broader support among the general public.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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