Opinion: A Tale of a Deluded Pilot: Hijacking “Air Thailand” for 8 Years Is an Act of Terrorism

A file photo of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha looking through an airplane window.
A file photo of PM Prayut Chan-o-cha looking through an airplane window.

By Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong

Recently, Prayut Chan-o-cha reckoned himself as the “pilot” who was behind the helms of a metaphorical “Air Thailand” for eight years, symbolizing his supposed competency of running the country for so long.

Expanding a bit further on that comparison, I could not help but think that taking over the plane is just another euphemism for “hijacking the plane,” which is an act of terrorism. Indeed, if that was what he was comparing to, I would say it is an apt choice.

Eight years before, Prayut Chan-o-cha lured many, myself included, into believing that him taking over the Government was a necessary measure to stop the “chaos” that had been happening at the time. I was young. I was stupid. When I realized that the man himself was, and still is, nothing but a fraud, my mind became even clearer. I, along with many others, made a huge mistake. But it is the mistake that anyone will never commit again.


Now, less than two weeks before the election, one must ask whether this will ever bring us anything. Many became bored with how the politics of today has become, many became energized and hopeful for the much-anticipated “pro-democracy government” on the horizon. The polls showed us as much, but trusting the polls alone will not achieve anything, voting does.

iLaw, a Bangkok-based civil society group, estimated that there will be 80 percent turnout for this year’s General Election. The highest turnout we ever achieved was at 78.5 percent in 2007. If this forecast is right, this election will have the highest voter turnout rate in history.

It would send a clear message to many of our fellow-citizens that faith in our democracy, as flawed as it is, is still preferable to that of four more years of cold, antagonistic, militaristic, and ultra-conservative government that is embodied in Prayut Chan-o-cha and his former ally, Pravit Wongsuwan.

Whether one identifies themselves as a Pheu Thai partisans, the believers of the Move Forward Party, independents, or ultra-conservative monarchists, one thing they could collectively and unanimously agree, is that this election will not be the boon, and it will not bode well, for those who cling onto such archaic and nonsensical notion that democracy is not well-suited for Thailand. Eight years of that is already too much.

Recounting on the airplane metaphors makes me think of a film “United 93,” where the passengers of the plane bearing the same name, collectively act to wrestle control of the aircraft back from terrorists. Even though that aircraft, along with its passengers, perished in the end, the passengers revolted for their freedom, for their right to live, free from the dangers of persecution and annihilation.

In this election, we are taking back control of our destiny, back from the hijackers and charlatans. We, The People, decide the fate of this country, not groups of oligarchs, elites, or the powerful.

And certainly, not the pilot whose license came from a cereal box.



About the author

Bunkueanun “Francis” Paothong was a student activist from Mahidol University and was accused of harming Queen’s liberty during the Oct. 14, 2020 protest. He served as 45th president of his university’s student council from 2022 to 2023.