Opinion: Prayut is using age-old excuses to tarnish the students’ reputation because he fails to listen

Prayut Chan-ocha, is not listening to the demands of the pro-democracy protestors. Why should he? After all, in his mind, he is completely legitimate. His party was voted in by the people, he is a prime minister rightfully under the current constitution, at least in his mind.

There is no need for discussion with the prime minister, Prayut is a true believer in himself, in his beliefs, in his god, in his faith and that they are the only things that will propel the country forward.

But more worrying than his obliviousness and dogma is his recent rhetoric regarding the student protesters.

He claims that they want to tear the country apart or that they are fermenting violence. This has been heard before and its echoes down the hallways of history are loud and dangerous.

Dogmatic persecution is not something new to Thailand. In fact, it is what led to the October 6 massacre.

The added accusations from the rest of the government that somehow the students are backed by foreign governments is the cherry on the conspiracy cake.

Someone just needs to bring out the folding chair.

This photo taken on September 30, 2016 shows graffiti depicting a violent ultra-royalist with a chair from the iconic photograph of the October 6, 1976 student massacre by Associated Press photographer Neil Ulevich, on the outside wall of Thammasat University in Bangkok. – Under leaden monsoon skies, Seri Sirinupong’s wizened face looks on as teams of youngsters warm up on Thammasat University’s football pitch, the scene of a student massacre forty years ago by Thai security forces and ultra-monarchist militias. Like many survivors, Seri will never forget the horrors of October 6, 1976 — one of the darkest episodes in Thailand’s turbulent modern history.

It doesn’t end there

If the rhetoric out of the government wasn’t bad enough, the military and ‘local village volunteers’ have begun indoctrination projects aimed at promoting nationalism and saving the monarchy.

The program was exposed by one brave student from Benjamarachutit School in Nakhon Si Thammarat in an incident that went viral in the past week.

The military, under the guise of the Southern Border Provinces Administrative Centre, was conducting a project during the school’s mandatory morning assembly where they aimed to indoctrinate students on the merits of nationalism and the royal institution when a kid stood up and questioned their presence and the messages they were giving.

The student was reprimanded but other students recorded it and uploaded it to the internet which led to the #เบญคอน hashtag.

Prayut was asked about the event and acknowledged that such a project could be detrimental to the current political conflict right now and said that he had instructed the military and other agencies that are conducting them to modify the project.

The prime minister defended the project and said what the government was trying to do was to promote nationalism so that students can learn to love the country and the monarchy.

Then he tried to bring religion into the mix by asking for Thai people to make good merit, go to the temple and pray for peace during such political turbulence.

And once again, the Thailand’s grand triumvirate has reentered the euqation, ready to aid Thailand’s conservatives in another culture war against unruly students.

Time to listen

But how long can this facade and charade last?

If people like Prayut and his cohorts inside the government were serious about preserving the country, the institution and the religion, then surely they would see the writing on the wall and the need for reform of all three pillars of society.

If they listened to the students and the protesters carefully, they would hear that the only reason they would address the institution in the first place is to reform it and preserve it.

If they looked at statistics from the last thirty years, they will see more and more Thais becoming less and less religious.

If they listened to opinion polls and read modern scholastic journals, they will understand that this country is not a homogenous construct made up by the nationalist yearnings of yesteryear’s dictators but a multicultural melting pot with regional needs and considerations.

Perhaps another thing to add to the student’s demands for the reform is the government’s attitude to what constitutes Thailand.

Maybe then, they will finally understand that the students are not nation destroying traitors but patriots in the truest sense, ready to fight and suffer persecution for wanting to reform a country that badly needs it.

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