Using force is no way to defend the monarchy

Using force is no way to defend the monarchy

Do royalists really believe that the use of force, hate-mongering and pitching one protest against another are the best ways to defend the monarchy?

Reactions from government authorities and pro-monarchy groups seem to suggest that they prefer to suppress the growing calls for a reform of the royal institution than to engage intellectually.

Reform equals toppling, a well-known actor-turn-charity worker declared as he vowed to lay down his life to protect the throne. It's not clear whether he envisaged a war or something.

But others in the royalist camp have been as ferocious, if not more.

Many branded the students "ungrateful" and dehumanised them even though their demands are simply for the institution to become accountable under the constitutional monarchy platform.

It's understandable, though, that for some people, the monarchy is a sacred, if not divine, institution.

For them, the monarchy is inviolable. It exists as an absolute entity to be worshiped and never questioned.

That might work if the monarchy is seen as serving in a more symbolic role.

But as reflected in the demands for monarchy reform by demonstrators, it would seem that many other people now want to draw a clearer line around the status of the royal institution under a constitutional democracy.

Where does the charter stand when it comes to the monarchy's authority, and vice versa?

If people were not so carried away by their passion, prejudice or vested interests, as seems to be the case at the moment, this should sound like a topic that can be openly discussed.

It even appears academic in nature. And since it's obvious that people's opinions on this matter are so polarised, it is possible that a solution will not be immediately arrived as dialogues will be prolonged.

The fear that a sea of change could occur or that the royal institution could be upended thus appear unfounded.

The notion does not seem to correspond to what many royalists have in mind, however.

As the student-led rallies zeroed in on monarchy reform, the backlash became stronger.

The movement's latest ploy, sending messages to His Majesty urging him to listen to criticisms and suggestions just like he does praise, stirred up especially harsh reactions.

Many accused the demonstrators of being "vicious" and "vulgar".

A network of royalist groups yesterday submitted a petition to the government to "shut down" the country apparently to suppress the demonstrators and solve the conflict.

Leader of the royalist Thai Pakdee group Warong Dechgitvigrom called for another yellow-shirt rally to press the government to charge the protesters with lese majeste.

He alleged that the demonstrators insulted the monarchy with the content of their letters to the King.

As calls for the military to stage another coup and a show of force get louder, the spectre of confrontation and violence looms.

At the end of the day, nobody knows where the tension will take us to. Or how to defuse the ever growing rift and hatred that threatens to boil over.

For now, we can safely assume that the yearning for monarchy reform is real among some segments of the population.

Whether the backlash stems from genuine concern or ulterior motives, it must be taken into account as well.

In that case, why should a coup, crowd mobilisation or prosecution of rally leaders work to silence the demands?

Another coup should be out of the question.

The fact that the country is embroiled in yet another entrenched conflict should be evidence that a coup is never the answer to political disputes.

Even if the military dares to pull off another one, it will run into stiff resistance both from disillusioned people inside the country as well as members of the international community.

How about a showdown, pitching pro-monarchy crowds against student-led ones?

What could a showdown lead to? As emotions run high and hate speech flies, a confrontation could easily turn into a clash. And violence could easily ensue.

So what choice do royalists have against the demands of the demonstrators?

The answer should be obvious: There should be an open forum so people can freely and safely discuss their opinions on this sensitive issue without having to fear for their lives.

If royalists truly want to defend the monarchy, the best way is to engage with the dissenters and show them the institution is best left as it is.

Bullying or threatening them with violence would seem to miss the point.

Atiya Achakulwisut is a Bangkok Post columnist.

Atiya Achakulwisut

Columnist for the Bangkok Post

Atiya Achakulwisut is a columnist for the Bangkok Post.

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