“Love” lost

30 10 2020

National, royalist, yellow

When all of the commentators – even some of those who campaign against the monarchy – talk about how “loved” and “revered” the dead king was and compare the current monarch unfavorably with him, we at PPT always wondered how the commentators judged this. After all, no one in Thailand was ever prepared to survey public opinion on the monarchy. And, if they did, who was likely to respond negatively after decades of indoctrination and repression of anything remotely questioning of the throne?

One of the remarkable achievements of recent pro-democracy rallies has been to open the door to a more nuanced and critical assessment of the monarchy.

Pareena

The rallies have also seen yellow shirts recycled to “protect” the monarchy, with the regime firm in its rejection of anything to do with the monarchy. For example, the loathsome Phalang Pracharath MP Pareena Kraikupt seeking to belittle activist Patsaravalee “Mind” Tanakitvibulpon with pro-monarchy jabs. As Khaosod has it, Pareena warned and lectured:

“Article 112 will not be amended…. We will not touch the culture that has been passed down to us.… Why are you asking for impossible things? … Learn to be respectful of things we cannot touch. Do not be selfish.”…

Parina insisted that the pro-democracy activists were only 100,000 in number, a minority compared to the “tens of millions” who wanted absolutely no change in the government or monarchy.

“Don’t act like a revolution. It’s impossible to change the ruling system,” Parina said. “You have to understand what ‘majority’ means….

Leaving aside the copious buffalo manure in these few sentences, we again wondered about how widely accepted “the culture that has been passed down to us” – meaning the monarchy and its trappings – actually is.

When yellow shirts rally and talk about the “silent majority” – as does The Dictator – we are also left wondering who they are invoking to their royalist politics.

A reader pointed out to PPT that we’d missed an tidbit in a recent Bangkok Post report that sheds some light on these questions.

Tucked away near the bottom of a recounting of a recent Suan Dusit Poll of 5,738 people, conducted on 19-22 October across the country, it is stated that 60.41% of respondents want protesters “to avoid infringing on the monarchy.”

Can we take this as representative of the “majority”? Are only 60% of people supporting the monarchy? In fact, we think that the percentage supporting the monarchy is probably lower than this because some would answer this was because they fear that yellow shirts will become violent.

However it is looked at, that the polling agency asked the question is a big change. That 40% were not bothered by protesters “touch[ing] the culture that has been passed down to us” is remarkable given the decades of ideological hegemony of monarchism and the political repression associated with it.

That’s not to say that 40% are ardent anti-monarchists. But consider what they ranked above “infringing on the monarchy.” 66.23% were “not satisfied with the prime minister’s handling of the country’s administration”; 72.37% wanted the “government should immediately seek negotiations with the protesters and not to buy time”; 61.69% said the regime “should not use violence against the protesters”; 60.43% said the regime “should listen to the voice of the people and the protesters”; 73.31% of respondents “want the protesters not to become a tool of any political groups”; and wanted them “to be careful about Covid-19 (65.97%); to avoid resorting to violence (63.85%); and to respect the law (60.67%)…”.

It would seem the regime has lost the “majority” and the criticism of the monarchy is quite a way down the list of concerns.

If the monarchy was once “loved” and “revered” – and we’ll probably never know – those emotions have dwindled remarkably in a very short time.


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