Updated: Red shirts and 24 June

22 06 2012

PPT is sure that most readers will appreciate the significance of 24 June 1932. For those wanting a Wikipedia backgrounder, see here and here. Readers probably also know that red shirts are going to rally on 24 June – Sunday – and that the choice of date – the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Revolution – is no accident.

Pravit Rojanaphruk at The Nation has an article that summarizes some of the thinking. PPT won’t detail all of the article, just highlight a couple of points.

Pravit begins by noting that:

On Monday this week, a group of Thammasat and Chulalongkorn University students wearing pseudo-1930s military uniforms gathered in front of Army Headquarters to urge the military to stop staging coups d’etat for good.

What a great idea! Of course, it is not a little ironic that the military once considered itself as the protector of the 1932 changes, and now considers itself the protector of the monarchy.

Memorial of the Revolution on the Royal Plaza: “…ณ ที่นี้ 24 มิถุนายน 2475 เวลาย่ำรุ่ง คณะราษฎร ได้ก่อกำเนิดรัฐธรรมนูญ เพื่อความเจริญของชาติ”; “…here, in the dawn of 24 June 1933, the Khana Ratsadon has brought forth a constitution for the glory of the nation” (From Wikipedia)

Pravit also reminds us that it was two years that the red shirt June 24 Democracy Group led by the now jailed lese majeste accused Somyos Prueksakasemsuk, ” called for the re-designation of June 24 as National Day…”.

The reason for the call is the recognition that in 1960 the royalist military dictator Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat ditched 24 June as National Day in an ideologically-driven decision to make the current king’s birthday, 5 December, the National Day.

This was a clear denigration of the overthrow of the absolute monarchy as Sarit continued the royalist restoration as remembrances of the historic event of 1932 were gradually erased.

On the linking of red shirts and 24 June, Chulalongkorn University historian Suthachai Yimprasert argues that:

After the coup, people recognised that democracy was under siege and they went back to search for the meaning and origin of democracy [in Thailand]. Events [commemorating] June 24 have grown bigger year by year [since the 2006 coup],” said Suthachai. He added, however, that all activities related to the day have been organised by private groups and citizens, in contrast to the period between 1938 and 1960, when they were organised and celebrated by the state as National Day.

Pravit points out that one of the few physical reminders of 1932 is “the modest bronze plaque [see above] marking the spot where the June 24 revolt took place, set in concrete in the ground at the Royal Plaza…”. There have been attempts in recent years to stop people gathering at this plaque.

That red shirts see links between their struggle and that of 1932 is deeply troubling to royalists, not least because they have spent decades trying to erase the event, and now the red shirts inject it with new meaning.

Update: Readers might also enjoy this rendition of the 24 June National Day song, which is virtually never heard today.


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