Tuesday will begin a fifth year under military rule for Thailand. There are many aspects to contemplate, but one worth reflecting deeply and honestly upon are the people who opposed Yingluck Shinawatra and Thaksin Shinawatra.
Often, these people have been summarily generalized as coup supporters who set the stage for the May 22 military putsch. These people, often identified as either Yellowshirts, Multi-colorshirts or merely anti-Thaksinites, are quite diverse. Many may be well-educated members of the middle class or the so-called old elites, but some are southern rubber farmers and ordinary city folks in Bangkok as well.
Four years on, it’s imperative to understand these fellow citizens as they played a crucial role, intentionally or not, in enabling and setting the political stage that led to the 2014 coup.
One of the things worth noting is that not all of them are unabashed coup or junta supporters. Some were just so desperate to get rid of Yingluck, whom they perceived as a puppet of her corrupt and abusive older brother, ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin.
Some of these fellow citizens are ready to oppose the military regime when issues that they hold dear are adversely affected, as seen in some environmentalist and community groups, particularly in the past few months.
This includes a high-profile former junta-appointed member of its National Reform Council, Rosana Tositrakoon, who has become vocal against military rule. This means such people are not static in their political positions vis-a-vis the military junta and some of them are ready to criticize and oppose it when feel the regime has let them down. To merely describe these people as cannon fodder for the junta would be inaccurate. It’s misleading and offensive to some of them to the point that real dialogue between people with opposing political views has become impossible.
There are at least three issues that need to be considered.
First, their desperate mentality. These people are so desperate in wanting to get rid of Yingluck-Thaksin that they created a power vacuum through protests and shut down of key parts of Bangkok and, at a minimum, remained silent when the military took power. They felt that their voices were not being heard or respected, and it led them to oppose the Yingluck administration at all cost.
Second, is the issue of legitimacy or lack thereof when it comes to military rule. Some insist the junta is legitimate after the late king acknowledge the seizure of power despite opponents of the coup who insist coup-makers can never be considered legitimate under the law of the land that is the constitution. The whole issue of legitimacy needs to be deliberated. As long as Thai society has no consensus on the issue, there can be no genuine social contract.
Last but not least is the trade-off. The question anti-Thaksinites must ask is: Was it worth it to allow a military coup to take place and allow the junta to rule with no checks and balances?
These are questions that anti-Thaksinites ought to ask themselves and if they are unwilling, then it falls upon others to try to engage with them into a deliberation.
Four years on, there has been no genuine dialogue with these fellow citizens as they have been alienated and reduced to one-dimensional caricature by those who hold different views.
This leads Thailand nowhere. Thai society ought to get somewhere as the junta has been around for much too long now. There’s a need to convince them that there’s a better way to get rid of undesirable governments than by allowing generals to take over the country with no expiration date.