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A Talk by Jakrapob
At the Foreign Correspondence Club
We’re very lucky to have him here to give us an insight into the alternative view to the one being portrayed by the CNS and their plan to return Thailand to democracy.
Thank you, Jonathan. Distinguished members and friends, well, I just want to be more specific on what I have just been through so you understand my situation.
I just got out of Khun Prem’s jail. It’s not a general jail. It’s Khun Prem’s jail. It’s Khun Prem’s direct way of communicating to the public that he’s not to be touched. Who is Khun Prem, whom he represents, …...represents him, would be a part of what we can discuss tonight because it involves the current and future of Thailand’s democracy as you know because most of you have been already quite knowledgeable about Thailand and its complex and unnecessary headaches and situations in Thai politics.
Jonathan gave me a huge issue on “Democracy and Patronage System of Thailand” as a part of a discussion on Thailand’s democratization. I’ll try to handle it in the best possible way.
In fact, considering the current situation of Thailand, no topic can be more relevant to Thailand these days. Current political crisis in my opinion is the clash between democracy and patronage system directly. It’s a head-on clash, and this would change Thailand and its foundations.
The stake is very high for both sides, I mean, democracy and patronage. And if you take the result of the August 19th referendum seriously, you are observing the clash between the 56% and the 41% of the entire population.
Never before that such a high number of people came out to say that we no longer need your patronage. It’s simply democracy that we want, not someone to pad in the back, not someone to say that, well, “I’ll make your life a little better but you should feel most grateful to us.”
It’s the time that real changes should be the national right of the people of Thailand, no less than most people in a more developed land. I believe we can see this in a life time, the complete change that has started at this very moment.
Well, however, we have started off as a country in patronage system. Most of you who read about Thailand and its brief history, because we decided to count our history 700 years ago and disregard the 300 years before that because it involved the southern complexity. That’s why the history was chosen to start 700 years ago in Sukhothai period where Sukhothai was the capital city of what would become Thailand.
In Sukhothai, at least in one of the reigns of Sukhothai long history, we were led to know and believe that one of the Kings during Sukhothai period, King Ramkhamhaeng, at the time, to be more precisely “Great Brother” –er I’m sorry “Great Father Ramkhamhaeng” at the time because the idea of God-like monarch hasn’t arrived in this land yet during the Sukhothai period. So he was –or they were observed and regarded as “The Great Fathers” who could be benevolent to their people and gave the people what people needed at the time.
One of the noted examples was that Great Father Ramkhamhaeng, or King Ramkhamhaeng just to be in short, proposed to have a bell hung in front of his palace. And anybody with specific problems could come and ring the bell, and he or his people would come out and handle the problems. That was one of the first lessons the Thai students learn about
Thai political regime that you have someone to depend upon. When we have problem, turn to someone who can help you. So before we know it, we are led into the patronage system because we ask about dependency before our own capability to do things. These are the very basic concept that makes Thai people different from many peoples around the world. So we started off like that.
During the Sukhothai period we had Kings that did things like that. So people had duty to be loyal. People had duty to have faith in the system bestowed on them because that was the working system at the time and there was no competing system. In other word, there was not –there was no better idea how a kingdom could be run so that was the best system at the time.
Later on in Ayudhya period, that was the capital city of a land for 400 and some years. The God-like idea of monarch had been introduced with the Khmer civilization influence. The idea of a King as a demi-God, as a representative from the Hindu Gods and the Gods beyond these Hindu Gods had arrived in our land at the time.
So the patronage system of helping people, or being dependable for people, had been changed into the state of protection.
If you have loyalty to the King, unquestionable loyalty to the King, you would be protected. In order to show this protection more clearly, people who do otherwise must be punished.
So this very system in Ayudhya period shows, or showed that there was an evolution of the system. Some people might call it regressive, some people would call it progressive.
Whatever it might be in your opinion, it was a combination between the benevolence of the “Great Fathers” model and the “Great Leaders” model.
In other words, Kings of Ayudhya were powerful and a concept of “power” were realized at the time that if people in power could be benevolent, you could benefit from that power as well. In other words.
Ayudhya period taught Thai people to live with power, how to live with it, how to survive in it, and how not to be destroyed by it.
But Ayudhya period also triggered the new relationships in our land, the master-slave relationship, the noble and commoners relationship. That was Ayudhya.
Then came Rattanakosin period. I would bypass the 12 years of Thonburi period. In Rattanakosin period in which we are now, the Chakri Dynasty was the starter of this so called Rattanakosin period.
What it is is the combination of Ayudhya and the new skills of what I would like to call “knowledge management”. In other words, the glory of the Chief Father is combined with the power of Ayudhya period and the demi-God stature of the monarchs, has been added during Rattanakosin period with the so called “knowledge management”. Knowledge is power at the time, it was perceived so.
That’s why King Mongkut spoke English in his court. And he introduced science, and probably technologies, inventions, foreign goods that were completely unknown to Thai people at the time, as one of the sources of his power.
King Mongkut was seen, not as a benevolent king, not as the best of Chief Father King, but as the Father of Science and Technology. He’s still regarded that way.
So in other words, the system in Thailand has been to the point that leaders and rulers have been finding the best way possible at the time to convince people that they’re dependable.
The source of their being dependable varies all the time like I described to you.
And then, here we are in the reign of the current King, King Bhumibhol or Rama IX. We have all of that combined.
And because he reigns for so long of a time, 60 some years now, his being in Thailand has been promoted to the state of myth. People don’t know whether or not they’re talking about realities or belief about him.
Because he reigns long enough that he could be all of those combined: the traditional King, the scientific King, the developing King, the working monarch, and now so, he can still be the guardian of the new invention to Thailand, democracy.
So all of that have been in front of us that we have all those variables that we have to rearrange and put in a new order.
We missed some opportunities in the past like when Predee Panomyong, the civilian leader of the revolution of 1932, 2475 for Thai people, that the system was turned from absolute monarchy into constitutional monarchy.
That was still in the reign of King Rama VII, King Prachathipok. Predee said later on, he seized power when he was 32 years old, and at the age of nearly 50, he was out of power completely and resided in Beijing for 10 years and then for the rest of his life in France. He never returned to Thailand, only his ashes.
He said at the time that “When I had power, I don’t know what to do with it. When I grew up and know what to do with it, I no longer have power.”
The idea of having things at a wrong time has been reminding us that we probably need a leader to rearrange all of that for us.
You see, all of that that I have said to you from the beginning, it leads to a strong belief among Thai people still that, with a benevolent reign like this, we don’t actually need democracy.
[size=4]We are led into believing that the best form of government is guided democracy, or democracy with His Majesty greatest guidance.
It has a continual development of ideas and belief into the current situation in which I see as a clash or the clash between democracy and patronage system.
In other words, Thais are made to be comfortable with patronage system. We start to invent the term like "ไม่เป็นไร"ใ It doesn’t matter.’ or ‘It’s alright.’ because there’s no other way to say it.
We invented the system of smiling anyway no matter what happens because smiles are the way out of a problem.
There’s simply no other way at the time. And we invented some saying some belief like "ค่าของคน คือคนของใคร" ‘A person’s value’s based on whom he belongs.’ something like that.
So the ideas and the terms like these have been based on a feeling --the feeling that to be patronized is alright.
I went to the US as a student in 1992 and I could never understand at the time why people could be angered by being patronized. Some friends of mine responded angrily to me and to the people I saw them talking to, ‘Don’t patronize me.’
I never understood that because the state of being patronized is alright. The state of being flattered is fine because your life depends on others anyway. So to be patronized is not a sin, is not evil.
But all that are coming to a big change.
That’s why we are clashing now because there are enough people who come out and say that, ‘No, we don’t want it anymore of your d=a-m.n patronage.’ The 41% that said no to the constitution drafted by the dictators and the dictators’ followers has been the result of the huge lobbying in the bureaucracy of heavy budget investment to turn the whole country to a ‘Yes’ country, you remember that; it’s just a week ago. And some even believe that there are some irregularities involved in the process of campaigning of the constitution or the counting of the votes.
But with all of that, big brother tactics combined, they got only 56%. And that includes the big billboards around Bangkok, and probably outside Bangkok too --but I haven’t seen any. But I saw a lot of them along the Don Muang Toll Way from the old airport that say something like “Well, we the Thai people have to join the same boat. We have the same fate, we join the same boat.”
But what is remarkable is the name that was put at the end of the statement. It says ‘Yellow shirt people’. In other words, the ‘Yellow shirt people’ combined with all those tactics, you got only 56%.
That is your big problem. Thailand is on the verge of change, if so.
So what we’re talking about between democracy and patronage system is that people are coming out of age, I think.
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