Academic journal article Asian Social Science

"Forgetting," "Returning to Ironic Happiness," and "Threatening and Hunting": Reconciliation Process of 2014 Post-Coup Government in Thailand

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

"Forgetting," "Returning to Ironic Happiness," and "Threatening and Hunting": Reconciliation Process of 2014 Post-Coup Government in Thailand

Article excerpt


The coup d'état on May 22, 2014, has again broken the bonds within Thai society. Although many Thai people desire to resist the coup, they are forced into silence under martial law, which is in effect all over the kingdom. However, after the coup the military government declared that Thailand is working toward genuine and sustainable reconciliation. In this article, the author questions how the military government's reconciliation works and examines its effects on Thai society. The author argues that the military government's reconciliation is composed of three main processes working simultaneously. These are 1) Forgetting, 2) Returning to Ironic Happiness, and 3) Threatening and Hunting. Reconciliation scholars might be surprised by what is being called "reconciliation" in Thailand. Certainly, reconciliation undertaken in this way has no positive effect on Thailand's present or future and cannot bring true reconciliation to Thailand.

Keywords: reconciliation, forgetting, returning to ironic happiness, threatening and hunting, military government, Thailand

1. Introduction

The coup on May 22, 2014, was a political continuation of a number of events during which elite and middle-class Thais have shown their reticence to include rural Thais in a Thai democracy: the coup in September 2006; the 2008 seizure and closure of international airports, which resulted in an overthrow of the democratically elected government; and the red-shirt massacres in 2010. Rural people, however, comprise most of the voters in Thailand, and elites perceive an alliance between rural voters and Thaksin Shinawatra (Note 1), the prime minister ousted in the 2006 coup, who they see as a pandering populist. Supporters of Thaksin's party, Pheu Thai, are commonly known as red shirts. The elites and middle class, commonly referred to as yellow shirts, organized mobs to stop the election on February 2, 2014, in violation of the law. Furthermore, they were pleased to support the military, courts, and independent judicial entities in their every attempt to dismantle the democratically elected government.

In this article, the author will outline the 2014 coup and the reaction to it. Since the military government worried that post-coup the people might not be under their control, they began publicly advocating reconciliation, and established Reconciliation Centers for Reform in all 77 provinces, despite the fact that reconciliation had already been discussed and was ineffective after the 2010 red-shirt massacres.

The military government's ongoing reconciliation is composed of three processes working simultaneously, which are: 1) Forgetting 2) Returning to Ironic Happiness and 3) Threatening and Hunting. However, these processes are incompatible with the principles and important components of reconciliation. Thus, these three processes will lead Thailand further down a path of political and social polarization, with no hope of real reconciliation.

2. The 2014 Coup D'état

The People's Committee for Absolute Democracy with the King as Head of State (PCAD) was led by Suthep Thaugsuban, a leading member of the Democrat party, which is primarily backed by elites and middle-class Thais in Bangkok and the South. Between 2008 and 2011, Suthep was the head of security affairs and the deputy prime minister under the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of Democrat party. In 2009-2010, Suthep ordered the suppression of the red-shirt protestors in Bangkok, and hundreds of them died and were injured.

Suthep started the PCAD at the end of October 2013, in reaction to Pheu Thai party's proposed reconciliation bill, which would have ended all political prosecutions relating to the 2010 massacres. Although they would also have been granted amnesty, Abhisit and Suthep saw the bill as merely a vehicle for giving amnesty to Thaksin and thus refused amnesty for their own actions in the 2010 massacres. On the other hand, Pheu Thai members felt that Thaksin had been a victim since the 2006 coup, and wanted to see him redeemed. …

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