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

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

5
OPPOSING DICTATORSHIP

Seni Pramoj turned now to making a living in Bangkok and adapting to patterns of power in postwar Thailand that shifted in sometimes violent, unpredictable ways.

It was law, his first love, and politics, his pet hate, all over again. As his country's envoy to the United States during World War II and first prime minister after the war, Seni had changed the course of Thailand's history. He was a national hero. But few of his countrymen had an inkling of the extent of his role in saving Thai freedom and independence. And in any case he preferred continuing to play the lone eagle.

Instead of going back on the bench, Seni decided to set up a law firm with Athakari Niphol, his colleague in the cabinet who had drafted Thailand's expedient legislation for dealing with alleged war criminals (actually saving them, although some of Marshal Pibul Songgram's followers always held it against Seni that the suspects even spent time in jail awaiting trial). Seni's only income was his pension as a former prime minister of 600 baht, or at that time more or less $100 a month.

"I needed the money," explained Seni, laughing gently. "But as it turned out I didn't make any money at all for several years and then my first real case brought 8,000 baht" (a little more than $1,000).

Typically standing on principle, he told Athakari that their firm should have some objective beside profit, especially in view of a growing belief among Thais that all lawyers lied and cheated.

"I said let's set up a law firm which is purely honest," recollected Seni. "He agreed to that, he's an honest man, too, and that has been our stand ever since. But at first we took only hopeless cases, lost causes; the best cases never came to us, and sometimes we took cases without charge."

Even before the law firm was opened in a modest suite of offices

-101-

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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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