There is in Thailand a vestige of an epoch that is fast losing its relevance. I speak of Thailand’s conservative establishment, an obdurate machine anchored in antiquated conceptions of power, inept at moving with the currents of democratic evolution, and balefully terrified of a new political dawn.
The Constitutional Court and the Electoral Commission form the steely backbone of this historic relic, more adept at conspiring in hushed tones than honoring the clarion call of the ballot box. Consider, if you will, the electoral triumph of the Move Forward Party in the recent polls. The populace spoke, the establishment quaked, and the results were — how shall I put it delicaciously — overlooked. Underneath the veneer of formality, these institutions’ penchant for autocracy unfolds with startling clarity.
Past alliances bring this into sharp relief. History, that merciless accountant, records numerous instances where these conservative establishments have clasped hands with dictators over democrats, casting aside the promise of egalitarianism in favor of a draconian status quo. This bitter marriage with authoritarianism is not only a betrayal of the Thai people but a shambolic performance of the democratic process.
Recall, for instance, the dismissal of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Here was a democratically-elected figure who tasted the whimsical ire of these establishments. The grave sin committed? Hosting a cooking show. Such a trivial act in the face of more serious breaches in governance, yet, it was enough to be disqualified in a surreal drama that unmasked the underlying bias of these so-called defenders of the constitution.
And then there’s the baffling tradition of banning and disqualifying parties, a veritable pastime for these establishments. Parties that pose too great a threat to the aging hierarchy are swiftly axed, irrespective of their electoral appeal or the palpable excitement they may generate in the public sphere. This arbitrary squashing of political expression dilutes the potency of democracy, reducing it to a mere puppet-show in the hands of manipulative puppeteers.
Yet, as we contemplate this grim reality, I invite you to consider a rapidly emergent counter-narrative. The winds of change are sweeping through the streets of Thailand, carrying with them the rustling whispers of an awakened populace. The tides have indeed turned, and the sentiment on the ground signals a robust craving for an unfettered democratic landscape.
As the old guard clings on to their crumbling battlements, these new voices rise in unison, challenging the foundations of their fortified citadel. The actions of these conservative establishments, steeped in a myopic vision of power, risk alienating this increasingly assertive demographic.
And one must wonder, how long until this simmering discontent boils over into a formidable wave of democratic assertion?
There is a wisdom in the old adage: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” The conservative establishment, in its obstinate refusal to engage with the changing realities, is setting itself up for an unpleasant rendezvous with the ghosts of past errors. The people have spoken, their sentiment resounds, and this institutional deafness will, inevitably, come back to haunt the power-players of Thailand’s political arena.
Democracy, after all, is a dance — a rhythmic exchange of power that thrives in diversity and dissent. When the music changes, so must the steps.