In our recent post on Kasit Piromya in Washington D.C., PPT concentrated on his statements about Thaksin Shinawatra and the international community. As has been mentioned elsewhere, he also said some things about the monarchy. Singapore’s channelnewsasia.com has an article (via AFP) on these comments.
The report states that “Thailand’s foreign minister has broken a taboo by advocating reform of the monarchy…”. Kasit apparently claimed that “any resolution to the political crisis gripping the kingdom might see the role of royalty revamped, with greater involvement in the political arena given to the rural poor.” It is noteworthy that the report has Kasit linking these two aspects of political reform.
He is quoted as saying: “It is a process that we have to go through and I think we should be brave enough to go through all of this and to talk about even the taboo subject of the institution of the monarchy…. I think we have to talk about the institution of the monarchy, how it would have to reform itself to the modern globalised world…”. Kasit said: “Everything is now becoming in the open…. Let’s have a discussion. What type of democratic society would we like to be?”
These reports caused a bit of a stir in Bangkok, with acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said he couldn’t confirm Kasit’s comments “until we verify his statements.” Panitan, who has close relatives in the privy council, added: “The government usually does not make any comment about the monarchy. Academics can. I think it is the same in England. The prime minister does not make any comment on the queen. We have the same practice…”. As is his wont, Panitan is lying. Academics in Thailand do not have anything like the freedom of academics in England when commenting on the monarchy.
The report adds that a “Bangkok-based Thai observer, who asked not to be named, said he did not think many from the ruling Democrat party would be ready to echo Kasit’s comments on the role of the monarchy.” The observer added: “Don’t be surprised if you don’t read a line of these statements in the Thai press tomorrow…”. It seems that was correct.
Like others, PPT doesn’t know what Kasit means [see update], but we welcome the statement. Oddly, in his Johns Hopkins talk, Kasit mentioned the monarchy in the usual way several times at the beginning of the speech. PPT hasn’t been able to hear more than 28 Minutes of the talk so far as the site seems to fail (maybe there’s huge traffic!).
Update 1: We have now heard the whole talk. Yes, Kasit suggests the need for reform of the monarchy and of politics at about 32 minutes. This is right at the end of his talk. More significantly, he talks of the need for compromise in politics with the rising forces of the underclasses. He is calling for discussions about a way forward. He says more in the Q&A. It seems like a step forward, but does his view have any credibility within the Democrat Party?
The problem for PPT is that Kasit, calling Thailand a “banana republic” and “problem child” is all well and good, but he needs to acknowledge his personal and his party’s culpability in making this situation through support of the coup of PAD’s proto-fascism, promoting street politics over sincere parliamentary politics, and for being unable to get over their hatred of Thaksin and his so-called regime.
His call for negotiations is somewhat hollow given that the red shirts agreed to talks with Abhisit where he didn’t budge, leading to the red shirt leadership being criticized for even agreeing to talk. Is it too late for negotiations now? Maybe not, but the red shirt call remains for an election. Can the Democrat Party do this? When Kasit talks of “separating” the “genuine” demonstrators for democracy from “terrorists” we can only wonder about definitions and the potential for more violence.
Update 2: The Times has an op-ed by Richard Lloyd Parry on Kasit’s talk at SAIS.