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Eight years ago to this past Sunday, I remember it all too well.
So did the million upon millions of Thais who witnessed it all unfold like a horror show taking over our television screens. It was an ordinary day like any other, people from all walks of life minding their own business. But behind this veil of normalcy, with the public still reeling from demonstrations by the PRDC against the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, not all was well.
The government was collapsing like a wilted flower with every last petal being plucked away by the military – democracy was literally under siege.
Glued to our screens, we all saw democracy and freedom vanish into thin air, seemingly deposed by a cruel magic trick. The magician of course was General Prayut Chan-ocha, the ill-tempered army chief already infamous for his crackdown on red shirt protesters. Prayut’s television announcement of the coup d’etat and assumption of power was an ominous precursor of what was to come for us.
I was in middle school at the time, young and stubborn, still struggling to make sense of this chaotic time. All of it was oblivious to me as though seen through a cloudy mist of ignorance. Like many other Thais, we knew our country was divided, yet, we were powerless to do anything about it.
Since the coup, Thailand has become a different place. The last few years have given birth to something new in Thai politics. We have seen across the last few years, the deluge of calls for freedom, liberalization, and popular democracy being championed by the younger generation as well as people dissatisfied with the government.
It began with the 2019 election, which was a wake-up call for the country. People began to involve themselves in politics in ways that was unprecedented for Thai society. It was almost as if at the moment of historical rupture, at one of our lowest points, something new was born.
A different beast, as they say.
When I reflect back to Thai democracy and what it stands for, I describe it as something that can makes us whole again, a chance to gain back what was stripped away by the generals.
The gubernatorial election of 2022 was the perfect stage for this new democracy to take root. It is no surprise that after many years of patience and determination, the Thai people have finally spoken. This victory means a lot because it shows that we Thais are capable of reconciliation and love, to forsake individual differences in favor of conciliation, and to unite a nation that has been fragmented.
This election has taught us a valuable lesson – we must unite together against all hatred. We must work together for a better vision of Thailand that leaves no one behind.
For me, it is a personal endeavor. It means something more to me.
I have had the honor and privilege of calling the new Bangkok governor a valuable friend, a mentor, and sometimes a rival. To me, he is my father foremost. But he is also a man who has the best interests of Bangkokians in heart. I have seen him firsthand, working tirelessly for the Thai people throughout his public and private life.
Growing up, my father was a role model for me, someone to model my life around. He taught me a great deal about determination, empathy and being non-judgemental. He emphasized that it was important to work with everyone despite our differences. From the time I have seen him working in the government to now, there is no man that has worked harder than him to achieve his goals.
The culmination of this victory is the effort of the Thai people working hand to hand together to respect democracy in accordance with the wishes of modernity. The greatest legacy this election can provide us is the fact that millions and millions of Bangkokians have clearly outlined their intent – they want a city that is liveable, for the people, and one that welcomes all.
This victory may seem little in the larger scheme of things but it’s a start. It’s a chance to mend bridges and to bring all of us together towards the shared goal of improving Thailand.