Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Oedipal Desire in Chua Fa Din Salai and Rueang Khong Chan Dara: The Politics of Deferral, the Deferral of Politics

Academic journal article SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia

Oedipal Desire in Chua Fa Din Salai and Rueang Khong Chan Dara: The Politics of Deferral, the Deferral of Politics

Article excerpt

For almost a decade, Thailand has been embroiled in an intense political struggle between two sides: the Yellow and the Red. The Yellow side--or "Yellow Shirts"--consists mainly of members of the Bangkok middle class who first took to the streets in 2006, clad in royal yellow, to protest against the then prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. Amid charges of corruption, abuse of power, and lese majeste, Thaksin dissolved the parliament and called for a general election, which his party won handily. The courts later annulled the election, but before a new one could take place the military staged a coup in September of that year that effectively ousted Thaksin from office. A fresh election was held in 2007, and the People Power Party (phak phalang prachachon), a successor to Thaksin's disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party, won by a convincing margin. Once again, the Yellow Shirts came out to protest, and once again the courts intervened, removing two prime ministers from the People Power Party and eventually disbanding the party altogether in late 2008. Earlier that year Thaksin had fled abroad to avoid jail for a corruption conviction and has not since returned to Thailand. (1)

After the disbandment of the People Power Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the opposition, became Thailand's premier in December 2008. His government was, however, also plagued by large-scale street protests, this time staged by the Red Shirts. While the Yellow Shirts consist mainly of members of the Bangkok middle class and enjoy both the ideological and financial support of the old elite of Thai society, the Red Shirts are mostly comprised of the rural poor who supported Thaksin and his policies. While Yellow Shirts are fiercely loyal to the throne and disenchanted with the democratic process and elections, Red Shirts openly criticize the monarchical network and demand that their voices be heard through the casting of their votes. After months of demonstrations and occupying of the streets, the Red Shirts suffered a violent military crackdown in May 2010. A new round of elections was held in 2011. Once again the party allied with Thaksin won in a landslide, and Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin's younger sister, became the first female prime minister of Thailand.

After two years of relatively stable rule, Yingluck's government attempted to pass an amnesty bill that would not only have pardoned participants in the various street protests since the 2006 coup but would also have annulled Thaksin's conviction for corruption and allowed him to return to Thailand a free man. A group called the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), (2) which consisted partly of the former Yellow Shirts, came out to protest in large numbers. After months of demonstrations and the dissolution of the parliament, the annulment of a general election and intervention by the judiciary, the military finally answered the call of the protesters and staged another coup on 22 May 2014. The junta-appointed National Legislative assembly later named coup-leader and Army Commander-in-Chief Prayut Chan-ocha the twenty-ninth prime minister of Thailand. He promised to reform Thai politics before returning power to the people. For the time being, however, electoral democracy is once again deferred. (3)

Amid this almost-decade-long crisis, which has left the country deeply divided along lines of class and political ideology, two big-budget films were released in Thai theatres: Chua fa din salai (Eternity) (2010) and the two-part Chan Dara pathommabot (Chan Dara, the beginning) (2012) and Chan Dara patchimmabot (Chan Dara, the finale) (2013). The two films are both adaptations of Thai classic novels that are ostensibly about forbidden love affairs. Freudian psychoanalytic theory, as well as its critique by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, suggests, however, that the two novels are actually stories of Oedipal sons who dare to defy the authority of their fathers by refusing to defer the fulfillment of their desire. …

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