Opinion: Time for the Silent Majority To Speak Out

Pro- and anti-government protesters confront each other during clashes close to the Parliament on Nov. 17, 2020.

Drastic ideas are now being toyed with from some leaders from both sides of the political divide.

On Friday, Free Youth, a key group within the monarchy-reform protest movement, sent out a message to its followers on social media urging them to discuss the idea of a republic.

Two days later, Warong Dechgitvigrom, leader of royalist Thai Phakdee group, made a counter move. The former veteran politician proposed that absolute power be returned to the king, “temporarily.”

“Isn’t it time for royal power to be returned temporarily in order to design a new political system free from capitalist-politicians for the benefit of the people and for real democracy?” Warong posted on his Facebook page.

It’s not just Free Youth and Warong pushing the stretch of political imagination. Many on both sides of the political frontlines are feeling increasingly restless after nearly five months of protests end up in an apparent stalemate.

None of the three demands by the anti-government protests have been met. Gen Prayut Chan-ocha is still the Prime Minister. A new democratic and participatory charter is still uncertain and the 10-point demands for monarchy reforms received no responses.

Well, not quite. One of the demands, the call for the abolishment of the draconian and anachronistic lese majeste law, drew quite a reaction. As of Monday, 18 people, mostly protest leaders, have been charged with defaming His Majesty the King.

The number of those charged in a short period is unprecedented. It’s clear now that not only won’t the law be abolished, but it has also been revived and used in a prolific as well as disturbing manner.

Among the group of people accused of insulting the monarch is key protest leader Arnon Nampa, who wrote on his Facebook account on Monday afternoon that the leaders charged under the law, himself included, would probably end up in prison.

Arnond’s other ‘predictions’ include deepening conflicts that would lead to the call for “the abolishment of the monarchy.” This, according to Arnon, will lead to a violent crackdown, eventual military coup only to be met by widespread resistance of the people.

The elites, wrote Arnon, will eventually flee Thailand with whatever wealth they can take with them and Thailand will be under the military for five years before becoming a truly democratic country.

No matter which side you are on, there’s one thing to keep in mind. It’s worth reminding ourselves that the silent majority has not spoken.

Despite relatively large turnout, the monarchy-reform movement has never managed to muster over 50,000 demonstrators on the streets over the past five months.

On the ultra-royalist side, the number is much fewer – no more than 10,000.

Allow me to be overly generous and say perhaps the monarchy-reform protest movement has 500,000 active supporters and the ultra-royalist 300,000. Still, the figure is less than a million while Thailand’s population is 67 million strong.

It’s clear that the majority of the Thai people, over 60 million, have not expressed their views on the on-going political stalemate.

It’s time for them to speak and act. Continued silence would be tantamount to forfeiting their role as citizens in determining the future course of Thai society. If the silent majority do not speak or act soon, there may be no other options but to allow demagogues of different political stripes to dominate and plunge Thailand deeper towards conflicts and confrontations.

Consider this a wake-up-call before it’s too late to speak senses. We all will have to face its consequences even if we continue to remain silent, sooner or later.