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

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

9
THE STRUGGLE RENEWED

Six decades after the end of absolute monarchy, Thailand has entered a new, traumatic, and yet positive stage of its seemingly unending political crisis. Following a successful military coup, a bloody confrontation in the streets of Bangkok, and two parliamentary elections in 1991-92, the Thais appeared to have finally broken free of the artificial bonds imposed by military bureaucrats who panicked at their own growing irrelevance. The years until and beyond the fiftieth anniversary in 1996 of the reign of King Bhumiphol Adulyadej, who has intervened quietly but decisively for democracy, will tell whether Thailand has left behind for good the danger of being dragged down by generals who refuse to accept the modern world.

"They don't know very much about democracy—and they don't care," said Seni Pramoj of these officers in early 1992, shortly before the unprecedented events that tragically proved him more right than he ever would have liked. "Why should they, with a gun in their hands?"

A deep popular desire to end military meddling, stimulated by the modern world of increasing economic prosperity, impelled middle-class Thais to confront these impossibly narrow-minded schemers head-on in May 1992. During the confrontation more blood probably flowed in Bangkok than during the landmark battles of October 1973 and October 1976. Because the military exhibited such low regard for human life, the people demolished a paradox that had been dogging them since 1932.

The Thai people are no longer proceeding in opposite directions at the same time, paying lip service to political liberty while tolerating license on the part of uniformed robber barons. They want real democracy and they know they will have to end military interference to get it. Appropriately, and logically, the Thais are led in this quest by Seni's Democrat party. Prachatipat won the largest number of

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