A call to change the
direction of Thai society
Giles Ji Ungpakorn,
a political science professor and writer at Bangkok’s
Chulalongkorn University, was arrested in January and charged with
lese majeste – insulting Thailand’s royalty in his book,”
A Coup for the Rich,” in the wake of the 2006 military coup
that deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
occasional contributor to Asia Sentinel, fled Thailand over the
weekend for the UK rather than present himself today to police to
face three to 15 years in prison. He holds joint British and Thai
nationality. Here, he issues a flame-throwing manifesto daring the
people of Thailand to change the way the country’s society
The enemies of the Thai
people and democracy may have their army, courts and prisons. They
may have seized and rigged parliament and established the government
through crimes like the blockading of the airports and other
undemocratic actions by the PAD. Yet those that love democracy, the
Red shirts, have strength in numbers and are waking up to political
realities. Disorganized and scattered, this movement of ours will be
weak, but a party that is organized and self-led can create a
democratic fist to smash the dictatorship.
While world leaders
such as Obama struggle to solve the serious economic crisis, the
Democrat government in Thailand is allowing thousands of workers to
lose their jobs. The government sees its priority only in cracking
down on opposition using les majeste, it has even created a website
where citizens can inform on each other. Troops have been sent into
communities and villages to stifle dissent.
The enemies of
democracy have guns, an army and shadowy bosses in high places. But
their weakness is that they are united around an absurd and
un-scientific ideology: the ideology of the monarchy. This ideology
seeks to make Thais into groveling serfs. They want us to believe
that an ordinary human being, just because of an accident of birth,
can be transformed into a god, when the true abilities of the king
are no different from millions of ordinary engineers, artists,
farmers or skilled workers.
The conservative elites
want us to believe that the king loves and takes care of the people.
But the Thai population are quite capable of looking after
themselves. All that is beautiful and honorable about Thai society
has been created by working people.
Grew in stature under the
corrupt military dictators: Sarit, Tanom and Prapass.
Allowed innocent people to be
executed after they were falsely accused of killing his older
Supported the blood bath at
Thammasart University on 6th October 1976 because he felt
that Thailand had "too much democracy". He was also the
patron of the violent gang that were called the "village
Allowed the army to stage a
coup in September 2006. Furthermore he allowed his name to be used by
the army, the PAD protestors and the Democrat Party, in the
destruction of democracy.
Has been an advocate of
economic views which reveal his opposition to state social
welfare for the poor. But what is worse, as one of the richest men in
the world, the king has the arrogance to lecture the poor to be
sufficient in their poverty (through the notion of the
Finally, this king
allows his supporters to proclaim that he is "the father of the
nation," and yet his own son is not respected by anyone
in Thai society!
The elites in Thailand,
who claim legitimacy from the king, are exploiters and blood-suckers.
They are not the real owners of society. They should remember that
their wealth and status is as a result of the hard work of those
ordinary citizens whom they despise.
For the millions of
Thais who know all this to be true, it is only fear and
intimidation that stops us all from speaking this truth out loud.
If we are alone, we
will be frightened. If we are together we will have courage. It is
time to bring into the open our anger, courage and reason in order to
destroy the fear in Thai society and to bring light back to
our country. We must all ask questions about the present regime,
which after all is nothing other than a dictatorship which shrouds us
in darkness. When we all stand up and ask questions, they cannot jail
So long as we crawl
before the ideology of the monarchy, we shall remain no better than
animals. We must stand up and be humans, citizens in a modern world.
The red, white and blue
Thai flag was copied from the west in order to indoctrinate us to be
loyal to "Nation Religion and King", the same slogan which
was recently last used by the PAD protestors who blocked the
airports. Yet during the French revolution, the red white and blue
meant "Liberty Equality and Fraternity.” This is the
slogan we must use to free Thailand from the "New Order"
which the PAD and the army have installed.
How can we organize?
Stop dreaming that
ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra will lead the struggle to free society. We
cannot rely on the politicians of Pua Thai, either. They will only
fight within the confines of present structures of society while
thousands of citizens wish to go further. Fighting outside the
confines of present day Thai society does not mean taking up arms. It
means arming ourselves and the masses of pro-democracy people with
ideas that can lead to freedom.
We must set up
political education groups and form ourselves into a party. This
party must be led from below by people in all communities, workplaces
and educational institutions. Yet we must be coordinated. We must be
firm and confident that all of us can be empowered take a lead
and determine our policies. This will be our strength. Our weapons
will be mass demonstrations, strikes and spreading ideas to all
sections of society, including the lower ranks of the army.
As a movement for
genuine democracy, our party must act openly. But in the face of
repression through violence and legal means such as les majeste, we
shall also have to organize secretly. They must not be able to
destroy our movement by arresting top leaders. This is another reason
why we want self-leadership from below.
What should our common
platform look like?
It is not for one
person to determine the common platform, which must of necessity be a
collective decision. But as a starting point I offer the following
ideas, the ideas of one red-shirted citizen.
We must have freedom of expression and the
freedom to choose our own government without repression and fear.
We must have equality. We have to abolish the
mentality of "big people-little people". We must abolish
the practice of crawling to the royal family. Politicians must be
accountable to the electorate, not to shadowy conniving figures
beyond popular control. We need to build a culture where citizens
respect each other. We must have freedom and equality of the sexes
and among different ethnicities. We must respect women, gays and
lesbians. We must respect Burmese, Laotians, Cambodians and the
Muslim Malay people in the south. Women must have the right to chose
safe abortions. Refugees should be treated with friendship and
dignity as any civilized society would do.
Our country must be a welfare state. Taxes must
be levied on the rich. The poor are not a burden but are partners in
developing the country. People should have dignity. The present
exploitative society stifles individuals and destroys personal
In our country the king should honor his
constitutional role and stop intervening in politics. But the ruling
class in Thailand gain much from using the monarchy and they will not
easily stop doing this. Therefore the best way to solve this problem
is to build a republic where all public positions are elected and
For too long Thai society has been under the iron
heels of the generals. We must cut the military budget and abolish
the influence of the army in society ensuring that it can no long be
an obstacle to democracy.
We must have justice. The judges should not claim
power from the crown in order to stop people criticizing their
decisions. We must change the way that contempt of court laws are
used to prevent accountability. We need to reform the justice system
root and branch. We need a jury system. The police must serve the
population, not extract bribes from the poor.
Citizens in towns and communities must take part
in the management of all public institutions such as state
enterprises, the media, schools and hospitals.
Our country must modernize. We need to develop
the education system, transport and housing. We should create energy
from wind and solar power to protect the environment.
Our country must be peace-loving, not start
disputes with neighboring countries or support wars.
The dinosaurs of Thai
society, the yellow-shirted Royalists, will froth at the mouth in
anger at this manifesto, but that is merely the symptoms of people
who carry superstitious beliefs from the past, seeking to cling to
their privileges at all costs. Their time is finished. We, the
pro-democracy redshirts will move forward to build a new society.
The elites have
no right to rob the people of their dignity in order to prop up their
own status. This sacrifice of the poor for the benefit of the elites
Those that say
that Thailand is "a special case because we have a king"
are merely confirming that the special status of Thailand, which they
want to protect, is barbarism and dictatorship. Statements about
"national security" are only about the security for those
who exploit and oppress the rest of us. It is not about peace and
security for citizens.
This manifesto is just
a proposal for a joint platform among Redshirts. My own view is that
our country should move even further to a socialist society,
democratic and without class exploitation. But that is a long term
The ruling class
only appears powerful because we are crawling on our knees. What we
need to do is to stand up, think and act for ourselves. Then we will
see how weak and pathetic they really are!
In the past, whether it
was during the 1932 revolution or the 1970s struggles against
dictatorship, people dreamt of freedom, democracy and social justice.
It is time to turn this dream into reality.