The reappearance of an alliance by some former Red and Yellow shirts to push for the ouster of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-ocha got many people deciphering.
Was this just a widening of anti-Prayut alliance or was there something more? With low levels of political trust, it’s not surprising that some have gravitated towards the latter.
The protest, led by former Redshirt co-leader Jatuporn Prompan, former Yellowshirt leader Piphob Thongchai and former key member of the People Democractic Reform Committee (PDRC) Veera Somkwamkid surprised many when they got together on Sunday to lead an anti-Prayut demonstration.
This shows that people who used to at least tacitly support the 2014 coup led by Prayut, if not more, now want Prayut out. More people wanting Prayut out should be good news for those fed up with Prayut and his cohort, particularly after a year of student-led protests and many of the student leaders themselves now in prison facing trials.
There’s a catch, however. Jatuporn and the rest made it clear that they won’t be touching the issue of monarchy reform, one of the key demands of the student-led movement, which is now losing momentum on the streets. Jatuporn said he is loyal to the crown and won’t be pushing for such demand.
This led to speculations and suspicions whether the group, led by Jatuporn, Piphob and the like, could in fact be intentionally or unintentionally limiting political change to mere regime change in order to prevent a more fundamental change sought by the student leaders over the past year.
Skeptics fear that merely booting Prayut out would change little as the powers that be, the deep state, would simply resort to getting a more presentable replacement to be the face of a new “improved and more democractic” regime.
Since the May 1992 ouster of dictator Gen Suchinda Kraprayoon, Thais have failed to truly send the military back to the barracks for good. And under the current reign of King Vajiralongkorn, concerns about the perceived increase of royal power have led to calls for monarchy reform. These skeptics now feel that a mere change of the government figure head, or Prayut, will not solve anything in the long run.
Many young protesters now desire for fundamental change that includes monarchy reform and some regard the latest appearance of Jatuporn and co with suspicions and distrust.
They fear that Thailand will remain caught in a loop of superficial political change that will not affect real political reform.
These are valid concerns and for three decades, I watched Thailand trapped in this cycle of superficial political change – again and again. Some have lost hope in genuine change and became apolitical. Now the young generations want more fundamental change and they do not deserve to be caught in this cycle of delusions for another three decades or more.
People like Jatuporn, Piphob or Veera had their days. Their call for Prayut ouster now is so hollow and inadequate as to be construed as a call to prevent more fundamental change from taking place. Sometimes when you’ve done your part of the contributions and become a relic of the past, one should not become an obstacle for a more progressive future. Knowing when to retire is key.
If you can’t be part of a future’s solution, do not become part of a present obstacle.