Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Jit Phumisak and His Images in Thai Political Contexts

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Studies

Jit Phumisak and His Images in Thai Political Contexts

Article excerpt

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After Thailand changed from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1932, the country fell into a vicious cycle of elected civilian governments and coup d'état-led military regimes. The authoritarian military regime after the end of World War II can be divided into three periods: the Phibunsongkram era, 1948-57; the despotic Sarit-Thanom era headed by Sarit and his clique between 1958 and 1973; and the recent royalist military regime that overthrew Thaksin and his sister Yingluck's governments in 2006 and 2014 respectively.

Each despotic era saw attempts to resist the authoritarian government and calls for social revolution. As Craig Reynolds and Lysa Hong point out, in each period-notably the first two-"the climate for political, economic, social and historical analyses as well as for imaginative literature was shaped by the nature of the regimes in power" (Reynolds and Hong 1983, 78). Roughly three generations of radical movement can be identified. The first generation was mainly Sino-Thai Communists-iookjin according to Kasian Tejapira-who had close ties with Communist Parties in China and Vietnam before and during World War II. Together with participants in the Boworadet rebellion, they were taken in as political prisoners (Kasian 2001, 26-27). Some were journalists and writers who co-founded the Siamese Communist Party in 1930, which was renamed the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) in 1952. The second generation was Thai and Sino-Thai urban intellectuals who introduced and spread Marxism and socialism throughout Thailand through print media during the Phubun and Sarit eras from the late 1940s to the 1960s. The third generation consisted of university student activists who opposed the military regime of Thanom in 1973 and 1976 and were crushed by police and paramilitary forces in the October 1976 riot; they went into the jungles and carried out an underground movement. It was in the postwar era, during a short civilian government, that Marxism entered the Thai cultural market in the form of considerable numbers of printed commodities (ibid., 59). Apart from numerous books, radical newspapers such as Mahachon and magazines such as Aksornsarn were produced by socialists and Marxists such as Supha Sirimanond, Asanee Pholachan, Thaweep Woradilok, and Seni Saowaphong.

Among leftist intellectuals of the 1950s, one cannot overlook the poet, musician, and intellectual named Jit Phumisak (1930-66). Jit was born slightly before monarchical absolutism was abolished and grew up in an anti-American atmosphere when socialism was booming. He was among many socialist writers of his time who were influenced by socialist predecessors, but what makes him different from other socialists and Marxists is that after his untimely death his works that had been banned were secretly reproduced by young activists (Reynolds 1987). The year 2016 marks 50 years after his death, and it is interesting to see how his image has changed through the times: from a Communist to a revolutionary figure, a scholar, and recently an adviser on lucky numbers. This paper reviews Jit's life and work by focusing on the construction of his image by different actors-the military regime, the Communist Party of Thailand, scholars, political activists, and local authorities-from the 1970s to the present, taking into account different political situations in Thailand throughout these periods.

Life and Work

Those who have studied Thai political history would know Jit as a Marxist intellectual, while linguistic and literature students would know him as a talented poet representing peasants and the working class. But most of all, he is probably known and remembered by socialists and political activists as a rebellious and progressive thinker who dared to criticize the Thai monarchy and Buddhism.

Jit was born on September 25, 1930 in a typical Thai middle-class family. …

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