Right-wing militarists, royalists and the national anthem

29 09 2009

It was about 10 days ago that PPT posted on the “Thai Unity” project that included the bizarre notion that assembled multitudes should be arranged to sing the national anthem, province by province, until the king’s birthday. This was meant to “to ease their [Thais] stress while promoting love, unity and goodness.” PPT hasn’t noticed lots of anthem singing going on yet and has heard plenty of negative comment.

Now the Bangkok Post (29 September 2009: “Sing till you’re hoarse, fellas”) has an op-ed by Atiya Achakulwisut that demonstrates how difficult it is for some to question nationalist nonsense and royalist dictates.

She begins, “I have a feeling I shouldn’t say anything about this. At the back of my mind, I actually know that I am not supposed to harbour any critical thought about the initiative or the idea behind it. I know I would be putting myself up for some real wrath and backlash. I know. I know. Still, from a deep, dark and hidden corner of my mind, I feel obliged to give my honest opinion despite my instinct to keep my mouth shut.”

The fear stems from her entirely reasonable view that this “is not exactly the most brilliant idea.” She adds, “The singing project … is the brainchild of the PM’s [Prime Minister’s] Office…. I don’t think it will achieve either purpose.”

Further, “Thai people have learned to pay respect to the flag and national anthem ever since we were children – it is almost meaningless in itself.”

Aitya then asks the obvious question: “what does the government think will go through our head if we have to do this ‘duty’ [singing the anthem] again?” Indeed, what are they thinking? And, why do they think that this old-fashioned “right-wing, militaristic attitude” means anything?

The author then gets off course, answering this question by accepting the government’s line that the anthem is “quintessentially Thai” and meets the urgent need to “promote a sense of unity.” among Thais quite badly. But she finishes nicely: “The singing project may appear grand, stately and nationalistic but the best it can hope to achieve is to be a gimmick…”.

Presumably the Abhisit Vejjajiva and his office are not a bunch of right-wing militarists? So why are they coming up with right-wing, militarist and royalist campaigns that are such duds? Are debts owed? Or is there more to it?


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