Opinion: Students may be losing supporters by touching on the institution; dialogue is the only way forward

Last Sunday, while at the protest at Democracy Monument, I caught a conversation between a father and his son. 

“I’m already here, aren’t I? Does that not mean that I have to agree with what they are saying?” the middle-aged man said to his lad.

I had to ask, “why are you guys here?”

The younger man took over and told me that he supported the student protestors’ three demands for Prayut’s government to step down. 

He said he believes that the current constitution is deeply undemocratic and it allows the junta to continue to hold onto their power.

He also noted that his father works in the tourism industry and he also could not find a job while the economy has been bad since 2019.

“If he does not know how to fix this then he should stop holding onto the power and let us vote for a new government based on a new constitution that truly comes from the people,” he added.

His father was nodding along until I asked him, ‘what about you sir? Why are you here?’ 

“I disagree with my kids and I believe that Prayut’s government is doing a good job in keeping all of us safe from covid,” he said.

“I do agree that there is something wrong with the constitution but there is no need to protest against that now, not when there is an outbreak and the economy is already tanking. I am also against their ten demands.”

“I am here to make sure that my son does not get hurt just for having his own political idea,” he added.

This contrast in ideology exists in almost every household in Thailand. 

Still, the constant harassment and injustice against political oppositions and dissidents, the economic downturn, the unfair trials and contracts in favour of the junta’s business supporters and the elites over the past six years have changed many people’s minds about Prayut’s administration. 

Many people who were supporting the junta to come into power, especially the People’s Democratic Reform Committee supporters, are now throwing out their whistles and raising a three-finger salute for democracy instead.

But the ten demands from Thammasat have effectively stopped many ultra-royalists from changing their stance and to stop supporting Prime Minister Prayut and General Apirat, who swore to protect the institution no matter what. 

This led to an internal fight amongst conservatives within the Yellow Shirts of People’s Alliance for Democracy and the PDRC as some of them are now arguing for the students’ three demands. This argument is ongoing inside the coalition party as well.

None of them, however, have touched on the ten demands to lower the power of the monarchy as even the oppositions are arguing amongst themselves.

The Move Forward Party (MFP) is now locking horns with the Pheu Thai Party over rewriting the bill. They cannot agree on possible amendments to clauses in the constitution related to the monarchy that the MFP is insisting on.

We will have to wait and see how the amendment of the constitution will develop over the coming weeks but the conflict is surely there to be seen on both sides. 

What is comforting for me is to know that there are people out there who are willing to listen to their kids and willing to stand by their side to defend them from state repression, even though they might not completely agree with everything the students stand for.

People should be able to speak their minds without being harassed by the government. To quote Alan Moore, people should not be afraid of their government. Governments should be afraid of their people.

Apart from the comfort that the father and son pair have provided me, the infighting between pro-junta Palang Pracharath MP Sira Jenjaka and Mongkolkit Suksintharanon, leader of the Thai Civilised Party, has also given me a smile.

Sira and Mogkolkit were friends until the latter said on Thursday that Prayut should step down in order to prevent a civil war.

Mongkolkit is known to flip-flop for his own benefits so his comments were seen by many as an attempt to gain street credit with the student protestors. He even flashed the three-finger salute on his Facebook’s post which led Sira to come out and defend his big-boss. 

“Have you run out of money?” Sira asked Mogkolkit during an interview with reporters. 

Sira did not elaborate but onlookers understand that he meant that Mogkolkit could be saying this to get more benefits from the government. 

“Ai Sira, if I find you anywhere, I will punch all your teeth out,” Mogkolkit threatened Sira before the latter filed a complaint with the police Friday morning.

Seeing these two junta supporters fighting against each other made my day while seeing Mogkolkit switching side has only reminded me of the conflict that is still going on in society. 

On Thursday, one of our followers on Twitter asked us in English if we could translate our content into Thai so that she can show it to her parents. 

It was another heartwarming moment to know that our content could be a bridge of understanding between the students and adults who are willing to listen to them.

No matter how this conflict ends, the best way to get to it is through understanding and conversation, not intimidation to make it go away or violence to put a hold on it until the next coup d’état. 

The vicious cycle will never end if we do not listen to each other and are willing to compromise so that we can all live together peacefully without tyranny and repression from the coup-makers. 

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