The Missing Marker and Thai Democracy

From Asia magazine, Vol. XXXII, Number 9, November, 1932
Caption: There was read to the assembled troops a simple and elegant manifesto setting forth the purpose of the gathering and the ideals of the leaders for a constitutional monarchy “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The soldiers answered with an enthusiastic “Jaiyo!”–“Hurrah!”

Activists’ group calls for public help in reclaiming missing historical plaque – The Nation, April 17, 2017

Authorities Respond to Questions About Missing Plaque With Arrests, Silence – Khaosod, April 18, 2017

Earlier: Tiny, Faded Marker Looms Large Over Thailand’s Democracy Debate – Khaosod, January 19, 2017
…“Thepmontri has a problem with the Promoters. He thinks that the revolt in 1932 shouldn’t have occurred and is evil. That it led to elections and corrupt politicians,” said Sombat, adding that these sentiments are being expressed because the backlash against and enmity for politicians are at a zenith…

[The 1932 revolution, seen in a wider view of history, seems to have heralded many decades of military dominance over Thai society rather than democracy.

Monuments and mentions of the revolution have been gradually downplayed over the years as the monarchy reasserted its role in the Thai world over the twentieth century. The missing marker itself had likewise been neglected. However, it has been taken up in recent years by Red Shirts who promoted it as a symbol of democracy.

There remains a strong strain of skepticism towards democracy. Thais often revere supposedly neutral academic figures or strong men over politicians who are thought to be terminally compromised and beholden to special interests. In particular, Thaksin’s brand of democracy–enacting reforms that seemed to have the side effect of benefiting family and cronies–only added to this skepticism.

The missing marker perhaps reflects the confidence and boldness of those who now see the new charter, as well as several powerful military cliques, guaranteeing that real democracy–particularly any Thaksin-led version of it–will no longer be able to return.

Regardless of any near-term political embarrassments for the junta, the military can count a big win for itself in the constitution and the seeming public acquiescence to military involvement in the running of the nation going forward. These indicate that it will be very hard for the sort of international standard of democracy envisioned by the writers of the 1997 charter, with the military confined to the barracks, to take hold in Thailand.

As previously noted, if Thaksin can be sidelined, the dominant political theme of the future will be a return to the battles over the military’s role in politics.]

More on understanding Thailand’s future political battles: Thailand’s Half Democracy

More on military confidence: If the PM stays, watch out for more bombs

And an article from 1932 about the revolution: Siam Tries a People’s Party Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

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