BETRAYAL OF A REBORN DREAM
Time was essential for Thailand's survival as a "domino" pressed by external enemies to fall over following the startling Communist victories in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos in mid-1975. But time also was running out on the Thai democrats in their race to build a new, fair, and modern social order before internal enemies of change could strike back.
The United States had bought time for Thailand by fighting in formerly French Indochina. When the U.S. will to fight faltered, the Thai generals who had increasingly staked their political power on this ill-fated effort also wavered. October 1973's breathtakingly successful student uprising gave democracy its best chance yet in a society still afflicted by semifeudal habits. But the Communist triumphs on Thailand's borders, combined with the unrelenting din of student protests along with farmer and worker demands, emboldened elements in the military establishment to wage nothing short of a national terrorist campaign to regain power.
These military forces came much closer than any outside power to destroying Thailand. They nearly pulled it apart. The Thai who bore the brunt of their fascistlike assault on civilized values was Seni Pramoj. What he called a "holocaust" almost killed him, and seemed to kill much of the best in the Thai nation.
First the "right wing," as Kukrit Pramoj called the organizations that sprang up to defy legitimate authority in the name of "nation, religion, and king," went after Seni's like-minded brother. This was because he had the potential to be a strong prime minister when he eagerly took over in March 1975, and might be expected to stave off a military coup. It was also because Kukrit moved quickly to bring Thai peasants into the nation's mainstream through rural development, and to come to terms with Thailand's Communist enemies—