In a functioning democracy, the winning party would be celebrating its victory and forming a government with like-minded parties. But alas, Thailand is not a fully functioning democracy. Instead of a moment of respite and joy, the Move Forward Party has been the center of a million political rumors from coalition betrayal, to being an agent of a foreign power, to the possibility of another coup.
As a country that has experienced several political upheavals in recent history, this is not unexpected. But these rumors and the people that spread them are threatening the stability and progress the country has achieved. It is imperative for the Thai people to remain steadfast in their support for democracy and resist the temptation to succumb to baseless speculation.
Borrowing from the Czechs
Thailand should take a page from Vaclav Havel’s fight against the communist party during the height of the Cold War. Havel was a prominent Czech writer, philosopher, and dissident who later became the first President of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic. Havel came up with the “as if” movement which advocated for individuals to live their lives “as if” they were free and to challenge the legitimacy of the oppressive regime through their actions. Havel believed that even in the face of a repressive system, individuals could reclaim their dignity and autonomy by refusing to participate in the charade of the regime’s ideology.
The “as if” movement emphasized the power of individual actions, no matter how small, to challenge the oppressive system. Havel believed that acts of non-cooperation, such as refusing to engage in propagating the regime’s lies or refusing to conform to its demands, could erode the regime’s authority over time. By acting as if they were already free, individuals could chip away at the legitimacy of the regime and inspire others to do the same.
Thais should do the same. Not only should we not propagate the lies of the regime when it comes to statehood and false narratives, but we must also ignore coup and betrayal rumors that threaten to undermine and break apart the new coalition.
Democracy as the Foundation
Thailand’s democratic system has never been strong but the success of the recent election was built on sacrifice and aspirations for a more inclusive society. The principles of representation, accountability, and the rule of law form the bedrock of this system. By participating in elections, the Thai people exercised their right to choose their leaders and shape the direction of their country – in this case, towards a more democratic future.
Rumors of a coup can spread fear and uncertainty among the populace, leading to a sense of disillusionment and eroding trust in the democratic process. Rumors of Pheu Thai forming their own coalition signify and underline a deep distrust in the political process. What people don’t understand is that much of this distrust stems from the military’s constant narrative that all political wrangling is evil. It inadvertently empowers the military and their counter-democratic narratives.
These baseless speculations often serve the interests of a few, seeking to disrupt the stability of the nation for personal gain. However, succumbing to these rumors and engaging in panic only plays into their hands, further endangering the democratic fabric of Thai society.
Strength through Unity
The Thai people have time and again demonstrated their resilience and determination to safeguard their democratic values. It is during challenging times that unity and solidarity become crucial. By standing together, the Thai citizens can send a clear message to those seeking to disrupt the nation’s progress: that their commitment to democracy is unwavering. Through peaceful means, they can address their concerns and advocate for change within the established democratic institutions.
Only by presenting a unified front can Thais take on and reform the judiciary, legislative bodies, and independent agencies, that have played a crucial role in undermining the principles of democracy. These institutions are designed to safeguard the rule of law and ensure the accountability of elected officials but instead have done the reverse. Thais must ignore all the noise to push our elected officials to reform these bodies.
While rumors of a coup can be unsettling, it is essential for the Thai people to remain vigilant and informed. Engaging in open dialogue, seeking accurate information from reliable sources, and actively participating in civil society organizations can help counteract the spread of misinformation.