Perhaps the least surprising news of the past few days has been the announcement that a self-proclaimed “anti-Thaksin Shinawatra group that uses the Guy Fawkes mask as a symbol is planning to join up with Thai Spring, another anti-government group.”
PPT hasn’t commented previously on this yellow splinter group as it seemed a bit silly for several reasons. However, now they are teaming up with the newly-formed Thai Spring, which is actually just an evolution of long-standing ultra-royalist groups using different monikers such as People’s Alliance for Democracy, Pitak Siam, multi-colors, and so on. In this sense, “new” is not an apt description of the group but rather a comment on their strategy and the gimmickry associated with the masks and anonymity.
On the latter, they state:
Whatever our future activity is, safety comes first as we emerge from cyberspace and into the real world. We’re trying to check the number of people willing to join and are waiting to decide on a date to rally for people’s right [PPT: we assume they mean rights rather than the political right]. We also want to demonstrate our refusal to accept parliamentary dictatorship that puts the benefits of corrupt politicians above the interest of the nation and its people….
The rejection of elections and parliamentary democracy is pretty much de rigueur for these royalist groups.
What strikes PPT as ironic in all of this is the Guy Fawkes mask gimmick. While the mask has been widely used by various political groups, the Wikipedia explanation is worthy of consideration:
A stylised portrayal of a white face with a subtle smile and red cheeks, a wide moustache upturned at both ends, and a thin vertical pointed beard, designed by illustrator David Lloyd, came to represent broader protest after it was used as a major plot element in V for Vendetta, published in 1982, and its 2006 film adaptation. After appearing in Internet forums, the mask became a well-known symbol for the online hacktivist group Anonymous. Time Warner owns the rights to the image and is paid a licensing fee for the sale of each mask.
It is ironic that this group seems blissfully (or wilfully) unaware of the Guy Fawkes story. As Wikipedia presents it,
The Gunpowder Plot was a failed assassination attempt against King James VI of Scotland and I of England by a group of provincial English Catholics led by Robert Catesby. Their aim was to blow up the House of Lords on 5 November 1605, while the king and the entire Protestant aristocracy and nobility were inside. The conspirator who became most closely associated with the plot in the popular imagination was Guy Fawkes, who had been assigned the task of lighting the fuse to the explosives.
We can’t help wondering why a royalist group chooses the symbolism of a plot to kill a king and much of his nobility and aristocracy.
Update: A reader points out that Guy Fawkes wanted to assassinate the king and replace him with a queen. That may also interest the apparently political plagiarists of Thailand.
Interestingly, The Nation reports an interview with a self-proclaimed and anonymous initiator of this group. It is a revealing statement of political positions that are no different from those of the Democrat Party and other yellow-hued anti-Thaksin activists, reproducing positions that go back to 2005.
On the beginning of this particular version of anti-Thaksinism, the interviewee shows the same lack of political and historical knowledge that marks these groups:
We want to cajole people to be aware and create a Thai version of the “Arab Spring” and educate people who do not know about the mask as to the meaning of the mask and why it is being used to oppose parliamentary dictatorship and corruption. It’s a universal symbol known all over the world.
They seem unaware that the Arab Spring was a movement opposing dictatorial and monarchical absolutism rather than popularly-elected governments.
Their knowledge of the origins of the mask are also revealed. They claim that “Guy Fawkes is a symbol of opposition to parliamentary dictatorship, who manipulate the media and shut the ears and eyes of the people.” Maybe they should do a bit more research.
The group’s statement of opposition to the elected government are exactly the same as those of the Democrat Party and all other royalists. There is not an inch of difference. Their alliance with these groups is specified in the interview.
Their call for “people” not to “be afraid of the government” is just another way of expressing a political distaste for the elected government. Their “refusal to accept parliamentary dictatorship that works for the benefit of corrupt politicians above the interest of the nation and the people,” is a claim that PAD has made since its formation and simply ignores all election results since 2000. They clearly state this when they say: “Our group thinks that Thai politics is in a most sham state and it’s just about electoral voice and benefits politicians and big businesses.”
Their Democrat Party political position is clearly expressed:
What we can’t accept is the burning of cities in 2010…. As long as the culprits are still at large and amnesty bill is being pushed and taxpayers’ money being paid to “heal” red shirts, we won’t accept it and a civil-war-like violent retaliation will be difficult to avoid.
This group is just old wine in a new, rather small bottle.