Chaiwat: NCPO out of touch

Chaiwat: NCPO out of touch

Thailand's military leaders need to understand that society is undergoing a period of transformation, academic Chaiwat Satha-Anand says.

Speaking on the sidelines of a Thammasat University forum to mark what would have been the late economist and social justice advocate Puey Ungphakorn's 99th birthday, Mr Chaiwat, who teaches political science and peace studies, said he was concerned about the current leadership.

The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) misunderstands political developments and social change, he said.

"The powers that be seem to be trying to freeze or slow changes in social thought by silencing individuals without trying to understand society is in flux," he said.

"That's quite a worrying trend," said the professor, referring to the arrest of social activists who have spoken out against curbs on freedom of expression.

Mr Chaiwat said he had done his best to speak out against past coups, adding the NCPO might not be the best leaders to safeguard Thailand's future. 

"I'm doing my duty as an academic by making the facts known to the public, suggesting alternatives to current conflicts and explaining the outcomes of chosen paths. We are all responsible for future action taken. Whether good or bad, we share in the country's destiny," he said.

Thai society has become intolerant under the NCPO, Mr Chaiwat said. Those in charge judge the aspirations of the young using their own, often outdated experiences.

"People's thoughts have changed. Resorting to old methods such as coups will not solve the country's problems."

Advocates for peace need to be free from bias and prejudice, he said.

Thailand needs courage, compassion, and sacrifice to transform society without violence, the professor told the hundreds who attended the forum.

He urged the audience to look at the legacies of peace activists for examples of how to help the country.

He cited the example set by Wanida Tantiwithayapithak, who led a campaign against the construction of the Pak Moon dam alongside residents from Ubon Ratchathani.

"It's important that in changing the course of any struggle, such as injustice, war, terrorism or coups, that we recognise our opponents' humanity and understand their side of the conflict," Mr Chaiwat said.

Jon Ungphakorn, the eldest of Puey's three children, told the Bangkok Post the public must keep their hopes alive.

"No matter how long the struggle lasts, we must remain hopeful and keep our dream of peace alive," said Mr Jon, a recipient of the Magsaysay Award, which recognises integrity in government.

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