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

By David van Praagh | Go to book overview

12
ALONE ON THE SHARP EDGE

Telling about being overthrown by Thailand's military high command on October 6, 1976—a dark day in the unending struggle of Thais to be free— M.R. Seni Pramoj said that throughout his long life he has found himself "always alone again."

He did not make this observation sadly. A little later on his sheltered verandah at 219 Ekamai Road, he noted, "I felt better that way—in the end, it's you and you alone." And when he was talking about his Prachatipat, or Democrat party, which he helped found and led during Thailand's most politically tumultuous decade, he added almost breezily, "Naturally, it's my job to be lonely."

Prime minister at three critical times, Seni has played a decisive part since before World War II in building a democratic foundation for his country counter to a strong tradition of military rule. His life as he has lived it, and as he explains it, helps put into perspective Thailand's political development, or lack of it. Always he has been alone—not just in using the "sharp edge of reason" against "the sharp edge of a sword" but as a sensitive, self-conscious individual on the sharp edge of battle for the freedoms and responsibilities of other individuals conditioned to accept authority.

This was true in late 1941 and early 1942 in Washington, when as an isolated young diplomat Seni took it upon himself when Japanese forces occupied his country to proclaim the Free Thai movement and to refuse to declare war on the United States. It was so in late 1945, when as the nation's first postwar prime minister he single-handedly saved Thailand's right to follow its own path toward democracy by blocking with American help a nearly successful British bid to make the country a colony.

After Prachatipat started life as the nation's first antiauthoritarian political party, and even when Seni played jazz with King Bhumiphol at the Palace, he was still a lone figure in the course of a depressing

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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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