Opinion: Making outlandish statements hinders more than helps the student movement

On Monday, during a pro-democracy protest in front of the army’s 11th regiment, protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak made the following claim.

According to Penguin, Rama VII once tried to sell the Emerald Buddha and other national treasures. This is why, Penguin said, the people must take control of the Crown Property Bureau and ensure that our treasures and money is protected.

While the debate over the Crown Property Bureau is with merit and should be a tough conversation that Thais engage in, the historical claim that Penguin tries to pass off as fact is troubling and does more to hinder the movement than help it.

Baseless claims, this one tied to a New York Times article from 1932 (a time when foreign reporting in the west was more orientalism than journalism), do not help portray the students as logical and reasonable.

In fact, it does the opposite.

At a time when momentum is shifting and the movement has been slowed down by government legal harassment and infighting, the student movement needs to appeal to broad sections of Thai society.

But Penguin’s claims, and other hysterical pronouncements from the protest leaders has done nothing but alienate moderates and push away would-be allies.

Take for example, Anon Numpha’s claims that a coup was ‘imminent.’ He has said this multiple times for over a month. And instead of a coup, all we have seen is Anon’s damaged credibility.

The pro-democracy protesters must understand that Thais are already sick of a political system based on hearsay and court rumours. They must instead embrace logical and reasonable arguments based on provable facts. There are plenty of those to select from when it comes to a government led by a dunce general and a court full of sycophants and extremists.

This government does enough to undermine itself on a daily basis without protesters having to resort to the hysterical or the mystical.

From a distance, a reasoned observer would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a general that makes public affairs decisions after consulting a fortune teller, a right-wing monk who claims divinity and clairvoyance, and student protesters conducting black magic rituals to ward off the coup.

Embrace reason and liberty and history that can be proven. The students have already shown courage and bravery in confront the ills of Thailand’s past, they must not be tempted to embrace the history they oppose by continuing the tradition of engaging in rumours.

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