Nearly every nation that went through a revolution has a founding manifesto. For the United States, it’s the Declaration of Independence. For France, it’s the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
For Thailand, it might have been the leaflets handed out to curious onlookers on Bangkok streets in the morning of June 24, 1932, by the revolutionaries who brought down the absolute monarchy that day and replaced it with parliamentary democracy. Filled with fiery condemnations of the royal government, it even accused it of leaching the people’s blood.
“Those of royal blood do nothing, just go on sucking blood,” part of the statement reads. “Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee leaving the people hungry while the country decays. All this is certainly evil.”
But the statement, known as the People’s Party Declaration, never obtained the same regard and soon faded into obscurity, similar to so many other legacies of the revolution itself. This year, those legacies are more exposed than ever.
In April, the plaque marking the spot where the coup makers announced the end of the king’s direct rule went missing – a disappearance the media are discouraged from investigating. Because of the ever-harsher interpretation and enforcement of the royal defamation law, reading the People’s Party declaration aloud in public today seems unimaginable.
But it remains part of the historical record, and to mark the 85th anniversary of the revolution, the usual public observance of which has been banned, Khaosod English is publishing an English translation of the declaration in full.
Note: The translation is lifted from historian Chris Baker’s book “Pridi by Pridi,” with later improvements added by linguist Junya Lek Yimprasert.
All the people,
When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that his government would bring peace and security, but matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, to take bribes in public construction and procurement, and seek profit from changes in the prices of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood to have more privileged rights than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.
The government of the king above the law is unable to bring about recovery. This inability to find solutions is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (or as they called them, peasants and serfs), as animals not as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, it plants rice on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people that the King is deducting many million of Baht per year for his own expenses, while the people must sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money the government seizes their property or forces them into public works, while those of royal blood are sleeping and eating happily. No country in the world gave its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, whose nations have already overthrown their thrones.
The King’s government has governed by deceiving and not being straightforward with the people. For example, by saying the King’s government would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened, nothing has been done seriously. Furthermore the people who should be shown gratitude for paying the taxes that royalty eats have been told they cannot yet have a voice in politics because they are ignorant. Such words from government are unacceptable. If the people are ignorant, the King is ignorant too, as we are all from the same nation. That people do not know what royalty knows is because royalty blocks them from full education in fear that if the people have education they will know the evil of royalty and not allow them to plant rice on their backs.
Let all people know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who returned the independence of
the country from the hands of the enemy. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all these monies come from? From the method of farming rice on the backs of the people.
The country is facing hardship. Farmers and soldier’s parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating brings no benefit. The government does not help. Everywhere the government lays off workers. Students who have completed their studies and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment, and go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law that oppresses minor civil servants, ordinary soldiers and clerks. They are not given pensions when discharged from service. In truth the monies that have been amassed by the government should used to run the country by providing work. This would be a fitting way to pay back the people who have been paying taxes for a long time to make royalty rich. But those of royal blood do nothing, just go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee leaving the people hungry while the country decays. All this is certainly evil.
Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have already seized power from the government of the king. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind. As for the Head of State of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives.
The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the Head of State will be an ordinary person appointed by Parliament to hold the position for a fixed term. By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way, everyone will have employment because our country is a country of natural abundance. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood have amassed from planting rice on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The People’s Party will govern and implement projects based on knowledge, not act like a blind man as the government of the king above the law has done. The People’s Party will:
1. maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic etc.;
2. maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;
3. improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry;
4. provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);
5. provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;
6. provide the people with full education.
All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will be for eternity. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing thus, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being peasants, serfs and slaves of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood can plant rice on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya,
will arise for everyone.
June 24, 1932