Activists Gather To Mark 81st Year Of Thai Democracy

    The former plaque read: 'Here, at dawn, 24 June 1932, the People's Party established the Constitution for the progress of the Nation.' It was removed in secret in early April and replaced with a new plaque bearing royalist inscriptions.

    (24 June) At dawn on this
    day, 81 years ago, the People′s Party has established Constitutional regime for the progress of the
    Nation.

    That much was proclaimed on the small plaque placed somewhere on the eastern side of
    Royal Plaza in Bangkok. Overshadowed by the statue of King Rama V where crowds of worshipers can be
    seen praying to him on any given night, many Bangkokians have driven over that spot on their way to
    work everyday without realizing the historic significance of the seemingly insignificant
    memorial.

    It is the memorial to the moment when Phraya Pahol Polpayuhasena, commander of the
    military wing of the revolutionary People′s Party, stood at that very spot and declared to the
    amassing troops on 24 June 1932 that the Siamese Absolute Monarchy had come to a bloodless end – and
    thus began the era of constitutional democracy for the country.

    Today, groups of activists,
    Redshirts, and academics gathered around the plaque to commemorate the Revolution after overnight
    series of events, performances, and fun fairs at the Royal Plaza.

    Organizers distributed red
    and white balloons to the participants. Some bore the words Abolish 112, referring to the
    draconian lese majeste laws. Police officers stood nearby to direct the flow of morning
    traffic.

    Precisely at 06.00 – the time the coup plotters had agreed to converge their troops
    into the Plaza – a representative of the activists stepped out and read the long, ferocious text of
    the document known as Declaration of the People′s Party. The Declaration is believed to be authored
    by Pridi Banomyong, the leader of the Party′s civilian wing, and was distributed to the curious
    crowds in Bangkok on the day of Revolution.

    The Declaration denounced the Absolute Monarchy
    as oppressive regime that bankrupts the nation still reeling from financial crisis after the First
    World War while enriching the aristocrats? wealth. It called on the King Rama VII to rule under a
    constitution otherwise the plotters would establish a republican form of government in his
    stead.

    People, know that this land belong to all of you, not the monarchy as they have been
    fooling you, the activist, Mr. Chainarin Gularb-aum, read out one of the most memorable lines of
    the Declaration.

    It also urged citizens to cooperate with the People′s Party, and promised
    that the new government under democracy will provide basic needs for the people, claiming that in
    due time he age of Sri Ariya (Buddhist Utopia) will arrive.

    After the reading of the
    Declaration, Mr. Suthachai Yimprasert, who teaches political history at Chulalongkorn University,
    took the mic and told the audience why it′s necessary to honor the spirit of the 81 year old
    Revolution. Before the People′s Party seized power from the King, he said, Siam was at the whim of
    the monarch′s wishes with no legal or any meaningful restrain on the royal power.

    The
    Revolution has not only established an ordered, accountable political system under the constitution
    and the parliament, he said, but also paved way for the rise of middle class, open education, and a
    more egalitarian, more mobile society instead of the static feudal rule.

    Without the
    People′s Party, there would have been no democracy, and even though that democracy has seen so many
    obstacles and setbacks, it still matters, Mr. Suthachai said.

    Mai Neung Gor Guntee, an
    activist poet well-known among the Redshirts, said to the crowd that we should remember how
    disunited the People′s Party was in terms of their ideas. Some even harbored fascism, he said. Mai
    Neung suggested that their ideological disunity eventually led to their dissolution before democracy
    was substantially established.

    Therefore, the democratic faction in our time must hold on to
    principles very strictly, the poet said.

    He also urged the crowd to remember that 2013 is
    also 79th anniversary of the royalist Bovornradej Rebellion, the first armed challenge to the newly
    established constitutional regime in Siam. He drew the parallel to the ongoing anti-government
    protests which he said are disguised attempt to overthrow the electoral democracy.

    We must
    defend democracy and the parliament, Mai Neung said.

    After the speeches, the crowd released
    the balloons, and stepped forward to lay down flowers and candles around the plaque. The event
    concluded around 07.00. Police officers almost immediately instructed the waiting street sweepers to
    dispose the flowers and candles at the plaque, citing the need to clear the lane for rush hour
    traffic.

    Contrary to the low-key atmosphere in contemporary Thailand, 24 June in fact enjoyed
    enormous importance in the past. It was even declared National Day by the government in 1938, and
    only lost its hallowed status in 1960 when the palace-backed military dictatorship under Field
    Marshal Sarit Thanarat changed the National Day to His Majesty the King′s birthday on 5
    December