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

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

2
THE DEVELOPMENT
OF A NONCONFORMIST

On May 26, 1985, an unusual meeting took place in Bangkok. On the eightieth birthday of M.R. Seni Pramoj, his seventy-four-year-old brother, M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, came quietly to his home at 219 Ekamai Road. Kukrit, as casually elegant as Seni but more like a bear than a bird, bowed slightly, and pressed his palms together in a wai, the Thai gesture of respect similar to the Indian namaste. It was the first encounter in many months between the two leading civilian political figures in Thailand over more than four decades. (The next time Kukrit came to Seni's home was exactly four years later, on May 26, 1989, when he had lunch with Seni and his family on his elder brother's eighty-fourth birthday, marking the auspicious completion of his seventh twelve-year cycle.) Each brother is known as a democrat and a royalist in a country dominated most of that time by military politicians. But each was always at pains to tread a path separate and independent from the other.

"The two of us had lunch right here," recalled Seni a few months after their 1985 meeting as he sat on his unpretentious verandah. "He gave me a wai—it was proper for a younger brother."

If the two brothers talked about political matters that warm day, Seni did not say so. They probably confined their animated conversation to more civilized topics: family, mutual friends, the food, the weather, the arts, the changing Bangkok scene. It was enough that the "Pramojes"—as bemused political officers at the U.S. Embassy once called them, deliberately mispronouncing the j literally instead of saying it correctly as d—simply met. This underscored that Thai politics need not be violent and confrontational, that differences can be tolerated and even savored.

Such a notion runs counter to a long-held American myth about

-30-

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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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