Three pillars that unite the nation

Three pillars that unite the nation

It's been almost three months since we have seen the three-finger salute gestured by pro-democracy students in a series of demonstrations to pressure Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his government to step down.

There are many reasons behind their struggle for change but their chief concern is an allegation that the government has failed to solve economic problems. That was what their claim was initially when they first rallied at Democracy Monument on July 18 where they also made two other demands -- constitutional amendments and an end to the intimidation of government critics.

However, their real intention was revealed at a rally at Thammasat University on Aug 10 where they announced a set of 10 demands, which included changes to the country's highest institution, including Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as lèse-majesté and royal prerogatives.

The incident shocked many and people began to accuse the protesters of crossing the line. To add insult to injury, the issue was highlighted again at a major demonstration in Sanam Luang on Sept 19.

On that night, 21-year-old female protest leader, Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, surprised everyone when she elaborated on each point in the 10-point student manifesto on stage as she delivered disrespectful words and occasionally shouted in a speech that lasted 18 minutes and in which she directly addressed the King.

This was the first time since the current King took the throne that the monarchy was insulted in public. The contents of her speech were so harsh that most of it was not even reported by the mainstream media.

Even though the rally was peaceful, it drew around 30,000 to 50,000 demonstrators at its peak, with the number dwindling to a few thousand the following morning where the girl presented a list of their demands for reform of the monarchy to the Privy Council president via a police commander before calling it a day.

Today, however, the prime minister is still safe and sound in office. Many critics have said that the student-led protests failed to gain enough support from the public to put pressure on the government due to their demands of reforming the monarchy. I couldn't agree more.

I have been watching the anti-government protests by younger generations with concern and now have started worrying about the future of our country. I believe that many older Thai people feel the same way.

We blew a sigh of relief every time we saw overly aggressive actions by our children participating in student flash mobs, which were originally aimed at attacking the government, but later morphed into a push for changes in school regulations and the education system.

However, we are now shaking our heads at the unreasonable actions by university students during protests where they are not only challenging the government but also offending the monarchy.

What we find totally unacceptable is the scornful act against the monarch committed by that female student on that night. Many protesters might call it bold and straight-forward but I'm certain that in the eyes of most Thais it was downright rude and disgusting.

While we comfort each other with the thought that our rebellious children are still young and immature and that we can discipline them and make sure they behave, I'm wondering what we should do to those university students who have cried for an end to the harassment of those who criticise the government but, instead, are trying to intimidate the royal institution.

I think that if those young people spare some time to study Thai history seriously, they would feel grateful for the contributions that every monarch of the Chakri Dynasty has made for our country over the past two centuries and also proud of the three pillars -- nation, religion and the monarchy -- that have kept our country united until today.

If they only care to learn what King Rama IX did for us long before they were born, they will understand why he is still deep in our hearts and why our love for him is unconditionally passed on to everyone in his family as well.

Now I'm curious to know how many people would want to show up at another rally set for the next two days to mark the 47th anniversary of the Oct 14, 1973 student uprising.

It doesn't matter whether there are some with a malicious purpose behind it or not. I believe that all Thais who truly love the nation are hoping that the students finally come to their senses and not repeat the same mistakes.

Patcharawalai Sanyanusin is a writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Patcharawalai Sanyanusin

Writer

Patcharawalai Sanyanusin is a writer for Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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