Thailand's Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

7
BETRAYAL OF A REBORN DREAM

Time was essential for Thailand's survival as a "domino" pressed by external enemies to fall over following the startling Communist victories in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in mid-1975. But time also was running out on the Thai democrats in their race to build a new, fair, and modern social order before internal enemies of change could strike back.

The United States had bought time for Thailand by fighting in formerly French Indochina. When the U.S. will to fight faltered, the Thai generals who had increasingly staked their political power on this ill-fated effort also wavered. October 1973's breathtakingly successful student uprising gave democracy its best chance yet in a society still afflicted by semifeudal habits. But the Communist triumphs on Thailand's borders, combined with the unrelenting din of student protests along with farmer and worker demands, emboldened elements in the military establishment to wage nothing short of a national terrorist campaign to regain power.

These military forces came much closer than any outside power to destroying Thailand. They nearly pulled it apart. The Thai who bore the brunt of their fascistlike assault on civilized values was Seni Pramoj. What he called a "holocaust" almost killed him, and seemed to kill much of the best in the Thai nation.

First the "right wing," as Kukrit Pramoj called the organizations that sprang up to defy legitimate authority in the name of "nation, religion, and king," went after Seni's like-minded brother. This was because he had the potential to be a strong prime minister when he eagerly took over in March 1975, and might be expected to stave off a military coup. It was also because Kukrit moved quickly to bring Thai peasants into the nation's mainstream through rural development, and to come to terms with Thailand's Communist enemies—

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Thailand's Struggle for Democracy: The Life and Times of M. R. Seni Pramoj
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Thailand's Struggle for Democracy - The Life and Times of M.R. Seni Pramoj *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword Stephen Solarz ix
  • Preface xvii
  • Introduction Finding Democracy in Asia 1
  • 1: An Extraordinary Democrat 22
  • 2: The Development of a Nonconformist 30
  • 3: The Undelivered Declaration of War 46
  • 4: Standing Firm Against the British 63
  • 5: Opposing Dictatorship 101
  • 6: The Student Revolution 133
  • 7: Betrayal of a Reborn Dream 165
  • 8: The Dead Hand of the Past 197
  • 9: The Struggle Renewed 222
  • 10: A People United 252
  • 11: Facing Economic and External Pressures 297
  • 12: Alone on the Sharp Edge 316
  • Bibliographical Note 330
  • Chronology 333
  • Index 345
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