Push for a republic a pipe dream

Push for a republic a pipe dream

Last Friday, the Free Youth group, which is an integral part of the anti-establishment Ratsadon group, posted a message on the subject of the republic on its Facebook page.

The group explained that a republic, a state in which the masses are the boss of the government, is a predominant form of governance worldwide.

It emphasises the decentralisation of power, with rulers coming from free and fair elections -- not determined by bloodlines. In it, the group said, there are no blue bloods, in fact, no blood colour other than red.

It then referred to Thomas Paine's famous quote about equality, which runs along the lines of "all men are born equal" and "no man has the right since birth to enjoy privileges over other men forever".

As far as the masses pushing for a republic are concerned, the voices of the people can echo to the skies, but a republic will never happen without the people rising up to dismantle the shackles of the old system.

Royalists have interpreted the Free Youth's message as the clearest sign of their advocacy for a republic to be created in Thailand, which confirmed their suspicions all along that the movement's ultimate objective isn't a reform of the monarchy, but to overthrow the centuries-old institution and replace it with a republican government with a president as the head of state.

Honestly, I don't take this latest outlandish push by the Free Youth group seriously, for the simple reason that it is just wishful thinking on the part of young political radicals -- a pipe dream that will never be realised given the present circumstances, or even in their lifetime.

Looking back to the protest at Thammasat University's Rangsit campus on Aug 10, I recall when Panasaya "Rung" Sitthijirawattanakul read the 10-point manifesto for sweeping reforms of the monarchy -- regarded as a significant step in opening the lid on this taboo issue.

The protesters have moved no closer to achieving their three main demands: the removal of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, the writing of a new constitution and reform of the Monarchy.

And Rung herself appears to know very little about one of the key issues relating to the monarchy, that is the management of His Majesty the King's vast assets, which she and her peers have fiercely demanded be reformed.

During a TV showdown on Jomquan Laopetch's programme on Thai Rath TV, she was caught speechless by Arnond Sakworawich of Nida, a defender of the King's assets, despite partial help from the moderator.

In an article, an academic said, without quoting any sources, that the activist "admitted that someone, whom she did not name", gave her the 10-point manifesto and she read it before the crowd at the Aug 10 protest.

Before anyone interferes in the internal affairs of Thailand -- whether in the name of democracy, human rights, or whatever the motive may be -- it is necessary to do proper research on the issue of protests in Thailand and keep an open mind on opposing views regarding the monarchy, which lie at the core of the current protests.

Last week, a group of US senators, including the Thai-American Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, signed a strongly-worded resolution declaring solidarity with the people of Thailand in their quest for a democratically-elected government and the end of state violence and repression against pro-democracy protesters.

Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey said: "Thailand's reformers are not seeking a revolution. They are simply yearning for democratic changes to their country's political system for freedom of speech and assembly."

Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois also said the protesters should be heard and accorded respect through peaceful dialogue, rather than being met with violence, harassment and persecution.

It appears that these senators -- who are far away in the United States and having distanced themselves from this region, including Thailand, for many years -- were either not fully-informed about the depth of the political conflict in Thailand, or were told just one side of the story.

In other words, the senators are no better than Rung, given their little understanding of the monarchy and the roots of political conflict here.

The protesters deserve to have their quest for a new constitution and a democratically-elected government that is truly responsive to the aspirations of the people in general supported by elements which aren't corrupt and bent on plundering the country's wealth for their own vested interests.

Peaceful dialogue, as advocated by Sen Dick Durbin, has been categorically spurned by the protest leaders and their backers, who have made it clear that their demands for sweeping reforms of the monarchy, as stated in the manifesto, are non-negotiable.

One must remember the protesters are just a small fraction of the Thai population of about 70 million. They number no more than 100,000, as written in all their protest manifestos, and their recent protests have become a mix of entertainment and vulgar rhetoric against the monarchy and the prime minister.

The protesters, particularly the key protest leaders, must realise they are their own worst enemy, given their arrogance, narrow-mindedness, uncompromising attitude and continued rejection of opposing views -- including good-intentioned suggestions from their supporters.

They would have achieved more by now, or at least won the hearts of more supporters, if they had just opened their minds and learned to listen.

Veera Prateepchaikul

Former Editor

Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.

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