I remember reading the interview by the last promoter of คณะราษฏร (People's Party or PP) from the Sarakandee magazine ,probably a decade ago.At that time he was ageing , frail ,but still pensive and could provide readers with the vivid remembrance of the 24th June 1932 uprising.In his larger than life epilogue , he said , "If I died and met other promoters of PP, I would tell them "now your legacies has laid firmly on this land, no one is capable of ruining them ,sir ".
Today is the day that the seizure of King Rama 7 or Pachadhipok 's power by PP becomes a chance for the civil movement to pull off its intrepid anniversary ceremonies again.In a seminar ,one of the liberal scholars would certainly sigh with lamentation and ask every attendee ,"Why the heck is Thai democracy still in doldrums ,even PP's revolution occurred 88 years ago ? ".And regrettably ,in the next year , the same person would ask very same question ,only number 88 would turn to be 89.
If you surmise PP was merely the group of firebrand imbued with the radical ideology from the frenzied west, you probably would be surprised to find that the absolute monarchism had been also adopted from the west for decades before the revolution.It was also ironical that King Rama 6 and 7, including princes as the top echelon, were so westernized from their long time education in Europe (they wrote letters to each other in English) that they just held the glimpse of Siamese society.This affected their insights into the country's governance .Moreover ,if you assumed King Pachadhipok had been more than ready to bestow a constitution (which was not necessarily related to democracy) upon the country , and PP was too rash and overambitious, you are terribly wrong.This is because king wanted the version of constitution he was aiming to promulgate just to consolidate his power and mend the wayward structure of absolute monarchy.The constitution would thereupon engender the position of prime minister to share king's enormous responsibility and also the blame.Nonetheless ,nobody certainly knew when the king would actually open the door of democratization to this country.Probably his obstacle was king's Supreme Council of State of Siam ,consisting of 5 princes ,who wielded enormous influence in the government.Many of new generation of the bourgeois found them reactionary and cumbersome.
Besides ,Siam in 1930s was facing topsy-turvy from the government's incompetency.The government also received the barrage of criticism for being inefficacious to mitigate the effects from global economic depression.Perhaps the majority of Siamese reached the consensus that absolute monarchy was then archaic and needed the slogan like Obama's "change".The compelling evidence of government's vulnerability was that only little more than 100 promoters of PP could easily topple it like a gentle touch to the house of cards.The repeated declarations of so-called first manifesto of PP all day also had obtained the fanfares from the jubilant crowd of thousand people.This scene has always been intentionally supplanted by the narrative of royalist history like heartfelt scene of King, who was then at Kaikangwon Palace in Hua Hin,deciding not to fight back.
Another myth of PP that needs to be busted here was many people think that promoters of PP, after the incident , had engaged in the ignoble series of infighting ,hence the decadent politics nowadays.Now PP's one of legacies ,widely misapprehended , is a parliament as a place of hocus-pocus of the rapacious politicians who grasped the seat of MP from vote buying and other methods of rigging.This is the historical fact skillfully distorted by the royalist narration.Actually there was also the group of royalists who had attempted to strike back by manipulating PP ,for notable example , Siam's first Prime Minister ,Phaya Mano ,who cunningly staged the coup d'etat by using a royal decree to suspend the parliament's activities and some of sections in constitution.He was later ousted from power by another coup led by Phaya Phahol in 1933.Mano died pitifully in Penang ,while in exile.
Several months later, the rebellion fiercely rushed to assail Phahol's government and it was orchestrated by Prince Bravoradej ,ex-member of Prachadhipok's cabinet.This aborted coup led to the rise of the PP's promoter like Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsonggarm whose ideas and style of leadership bore resemblance to Militarism and Fascism from Italy and Germany many years later.After coup in 1947, the military and the royalists rose to prominence in the ensuing government , led by Kuang Apaiwong ,promoter of PP -turned- royalist proselyte. Kuang was then replaced by Plaek ,but the ex-Commander-in-Chief of Army seemed to be a mere figurehead ,too powerless ( or too selfish) to implement the democratic projects of PP.Furthermore, Plaek's subordinates were hostile towards his erstwhile party.The coup also was the final nail in the coffin of liberal politicians, and many of them were the underlings of Pridi Banomyong , one of the leaders of PP.The curtain of PP's clout in Thai politics had already been pulled down pathetically.
Thailand hitherto had to endure the numerous coups and parliamentary democracy had been the pretext for many governments controlled by military cliques ,supported by the royalist elites,who always held PP in contempt and animosity.PP thus emerged as the villain in Thai textbook for school ,whilst king Pachadhipok was unbelievably the opposite.PP's 2 renowned promoters like Pridi had been constantly attacked by a royalist as Communist and regicide.The other , Plaek , was ridiculed as the dictator who was Hitler wannabe and inventor of Padthai.
Notwithstanding ,after the populist Prime Minister,Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by the coup in 2006 ,his proponents and the liberal scholars tried to rehabilitate PP to counter the authoritarianism.Thenceforth ,PP became the political symbol of the dissidents of Thai establishment.Today the authority was thus extremely on red alert ,as it was wary the critics of Prayut might have exploited the anniversary of PP's heroic struggle.Meanwhile ,netizens with royalist minds ,and also Lung Tuu's government FC., had painstakingly undermined PP with various tactics , including derisive renaming like "คณะร่าน" (Sluttish Party) instead of "คณะราษฎร".Before this for decades , there had been successive endeavors to cover PP's priceless contributions with the travesties of establishment.Recently the signs as a reminiscence of PP had been gradually sneakily removed, as if someone had intended to erase PP entirely from Thai history.The most outstanding one was a plaque marking the point that Phaya Phahol was standing for declaring PP's manifesto.It was replaced out of the blue by another one with the weird royalist slogan.
Worse still, most of politicians from elections had a little faith in democratic values ,introduced by PP ,like people's empowerment.They also frequently exploited their connections with the unsavoury coalition between the royalists and the military who had cautiously guarded their turfs.Those 2 factions had a vague notion of human rights and paid lip service to transparency.This tragically ushered in the rampant corruptions and oppression.For some reasons,plenty of people grew increasingly weary of only the elected governments ,and the upheavals were ignited.The military then appeared as a knights in shining armor by staging coups.The rest was history and PP's determination was thwarted.
However ,if you think all PP had bequeathed are just the removed statues ,stolen plaque and changed names ,you many not get hold of the interview above.One of PP's legacies that any of its adversary could not eradicate is the mindset -all Thais are equal - which at that time was the radical idea for the conservative Siamese society.Now this idea is still received with big smirks, as the corrupt structure of Thai society and authority is entrenched like Neo-feudalism.However, an increasing number of Thais have appreciated this mindset as they begin to apprehend the establishment in different light from the one long time nurtured on public mind.
A specter of People's Party is haunting Thailand come what may.