Professor Noam Chomsky has spoken with exiled Thai academic Pavin Chachavalpongpun exclusively for the first time on the dire political situation in Thailand. He delved into the issue of the monarchy in Thai politics, the persistent political intervention of the Thai army, the draconian lèse-majesté law which forbids anyone from criticising the royal family, and the role of Thai youths in the changing political environment.
Drawing on his own observations on American politics, Chomsky detects similar problems facing two dissimilar nations—the United States and Thailand. Although a republic, the United States has continued to worship certain political leaders as if they were gods. In Thailand, kings are seen as ultimately sacred. But the excessive reverence of the royal institution in Thailand has generated a myriad of political problems. Most evidently, it has placed the monarchy at the apex of the political structure, which, as Chomsky sees it, demands forced veneration from the public, and thus submission.
Looking into the future of Thailand, Chomsky hopes there will be dedicated efforts to confront the political regression in order to move to a more just and free political community in the country.
Pavin, an associate professor at Kyoto University’s Center for Southeast Asian Studies, in Japan, conducted this interview after Chomsky moved from MIT to the University of Arizona on 1 December 2017. Pavin was charged with lèse-majesté for his criticism of the government in the aftermath of the 2014 coup in Thailand.
The project was supported by the Free Future Foundation, a Paris-based non-profit organisation designed to promote democracy and human rights.