To the minds of the generals, in long run, Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit is more dangerous than Thaksin Shinawatra. Sure, Thaksin’s nominee parties pose a much greater electoral threat than Thanatorn’s one newbie party. But here’s the thing:
Thaksin’s alleged crime was his attempt to change the power dynamic among the elites. That’s just rich people bickering against each other, while using poor people in the streets. It’s a tale as old as time.
Thanatorn’s alleged crime is fermenting a revolution of the mind that could lead to the changing of social hierarchy and traditional status quo. That, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, is what we called a people’s revolution. As old as time, it’s a tale most feared by the traditional establishment.
No need to “wai” the “poo-yai”?
No need for “wai kru” ceremony?
No need for kowtowing and crawling?
Disloyal. Disrespectful. Un-Thai.
There is an unwritten social contract that bounds the Thai people together. That is, the inferior (“poo-noi”) submits to the superior (“poo-yai”). This is how our national psyche is framed. This is how our cultural is engineered. This is the thread that binds our social relationship of authority and voluntary submission.
You can legislate new laws and rewrite the constitution ten times over, but neither is nearly as powerful as the culturally mindset that has been engineered through centuries and through history – and that mindset is being challenged.
If the people no longer submit and accept the status of the inferior, then the hierarchy begins to crumble. This is why Thanatorn’s considered dangerous, why he’s being singling out by the generals and why he’s the targeted by traditionalists.
What if the people stop kowtowing? What if the people stop referring to the elites as “tan”? What if the people actually believe that they are equal to everyone else, no matter the wealth, ranks or titles?
Twenty years ago, it would be scandalous to openly questioned authority figures. Ten years ago, we saw the beginning of how traditions are being called into question. These days, it’s a daily social media frenzy of mocking and ridiculing authoritative figures. And now, this “rise against the system” has a name and a face to represent it.
Is Thanatorn a true democracy idealist? Or is he the great pretender? Or somewhere in between? Everyone has an opinion based on personal bias, but the truth remains to be seen.
This doesn’t mean he would make a good or bad prime minister, or that he would win any election. He’s not even the first to have said these things. But he’s the first to speak it from a political platform in the digital age. Change is a scary thing.
Elections, constitutions and legislations are all important. But it’s the cultural mindset that truly moves a nation, or keeps it in the same place. If the people no longer adhere to traditions, then the generals lose control of the hearts and minds of the people.
And if the generals lose control of the cultural mindset, then the generals lose control of the country, even if they win the elections.
Would this change be good or bad for Thailand? That depends on who you ask, what your personal vision of Thailand is and how you would either lose out or benefit from.
One thing is for certain, tradition VS change, it’s a tale as old as time.