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Khanarassadorn ideals remembered…Absolute monarchy to Dictatorship ghost of Siam

BKP,24 June 2012

Descendants of the Khanarassadorn welcome greater interest in the 1932 revolution but caution that unless the true spirit of their sacrifice for the country and the people is upheld, the current desire to complete the “unfinished” business of their forebears is only a political ploy.

Most of them are also defensive about the intentions of the Khanarassadorn who did not want to overthrow the monarchy but to switch administrative responsibility away from the revered institution.

Kraisi Tularak, son of Sa-nguan Tularak, one of the 50 civilian members of the Khanarassadorn, said he was glad more people were praising the 1932 Revolution plotters for ushering in democracy.

But Mr Kraisi, 84, warned society to thoroughly read the minds of politicians and the many factions who are currently referring to the Khanarassadorn. Are they trying to mobilise support for their political gains or are they interested in bringing about real democracy?

Chirawat Pibulsonggram Panyarachun, the oldest surviving offspring of the Khanarassadorn members, said she was overwhelmed and thankful that young people today care to debate the motives and effects of the 1932 regime change.

“It’s interesting and exciting to see the young students name themselves Khanarassadorn II, to see the red-shirt masses commemorate this event, to see seminars and conferences at universities, on television and on radio too,” said the 91-year-old Capt Chirawat, the eldest daughter of Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram and the third of his six children.

She believed those who were celebrating the 1932 Revolution did not have ill intentions but just wanted to think of the good things their forefathers have carried out for the nation.

But Mrs Chirawat, an elder sister-in-law of former prime minister Anand Panyarachun, stopped short at interpreting the “unfinished business” that the intellectuals and some red-shirt members were referring to as monarchical reform.

“I believe our forefathers did not think about dethroning or overthrowing this institution. Their aim was for the six principles to be embedded in the nation. Perhaps people nowadays think or interpret too much. Frankly, considering the Khanarassadorn context, you’ll see that those people were ardent young blood from the military and civil service. They just wanted the country to be like other nations, whether right or wrong, and they did carry out the mission (to change the regime),” said Mrs Chirawat, also an elder sister of former foreign minister Nitaya Pibulsonggram in the coup-installed Surayud government.

The six principles referred to the Khanarassadorn’s goals to uphold the people as the supreme power, to maintain national security, to maintain the economic welfare of the people in accordance with the Pridi-drafted National Economic Project, to protect the equality of the people, to maintain the people’s rights and liberties and to provide public education for all citizens.

Mrs Chirawat strongly reaffirmed that it was the right of subsequent generations to further conceptualise the aims of the Khanarassadorn course, but she thought reform of the monarchy was not the motive of the Khanarassadorn.

She also lamented the decades-long debates that blamed the Khanarassadorn, especially her father, for implanting military dictatorships in Thailand, “My father even cried when there was a coup in 1947. He said when the tanks came out, it closed the chapter of the Khanarassadorn. But there were things he needed to do, I believe,” Marshal Plaek’s daughter said.

She lamented the fact that Thai society did not acknowledge Marshal Plaek’s contribution to Thailand. “He inaugurated the ground-breaking stones for the building of the Democracy Monument and he also built roads and universities. We should be fair when it comes to history.”

From Left: Suda Banomyong, Kraisi Tularak and Apilas Osathanond (Photo by Achara Ashayagachat)

Mrs Chirawat noted that the ruling class always writes history. For example, Marshal Sarit Thanarat changed National Day from June 24 to Dec 5. He also disliked and belittled the Khanarassadorn, especially Marshal Plaek. Thai people, therefore, might not have a complete picture about the Khanarassadorn.

Permsak Phatoomros, the youngest of four sons of Chaleo Phatoomros, said the monarchy was an indispensible institution in Thai democracy, but the current political problems might stem from abuse of the lese majesete laws for political gain.

Mr Permsak was certain Thailand had passed the democracy test. “There have been, of course, ups and downs in our 80-year democracy, but if we don’t act too emotionally and stay true to the course in democratic institutionalisation, it should be okay,” said the former businessman.

Dusdi Banomyong, 73, the fifth child of the late Pridi Banomyong, said of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship rally on Sunday that it was up to the people to judge what was really good for the country.

It was important, said Ms Dusdi, that Thais today comprehensively understand the Khanarassadorn context and study Pridi’s concepts and not just be satisfied with formality or rituals.

She said it did not matter much to her or her family whether June 24 would be restored as National Day. “The spirit of Khanarassadorn matters more than any ritual or official recognition,” Ms Dusdi said, adding that the essence of the Khanarassadorn philosophy “should be more widely discussed among the young generation”.

Talking about the staggered success of Thai democracy, she noted that her father had tried his best to implement his ideology but the 1947 coup interrupted his work. Coupled with the influences of the “old forces” that tried to prevent progressive changes, the implementation of Pridi’s ideas had, therefore, stagnated.

Since then, democracy has been “claimed” by different politicians, Mrs Dusdi said. She declined to predict whether Thailand needed guided or popular democracy.

She said Thais was were too biased. “My father, for example, is considered a demon to society — dubbed a leftist and a rightist. How can that be?” she said. Future generations needed to respect history.

Puangkeo Satraprung, one of the four surviving children of Phraya Phahon Pholpayuhasena, the leader of Khanarassadorn, said the UDD and the red-shirt movement was a natural consequence since the people and political groups have been silenced by the lese majeste laws. So the situation was quite dim and people felt desperate about the political deadlock.

Once the people feel hopeless about the justice system, the continuing exploitation and suppression will inevitably bring about new bloodshed, Mrs Puangkeo said.

“If the people can no longer rely on the judiciary and other institutions, if there is no mercy for the people, if people cannot live an affordable life and their children cannot have a good education, they will revolt,” the 71-year-old said.

Apilas Osathanond, a former permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister, said he believed the Khanarassadorn would be disappointed if they were around today, as there have been some undesirable developments in the past 80 years.

“I’m hopeful that things will improve, though, but that relies very much on how well aware the Thai people are. We must not be easily nosed along by certain politicians. A healthy democracy is based on how smart the citizens are,” said the son of Wilat Osathanond, a civilian member of Khanarassadorn.

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Written by Kham

24/06/2012 at 8:15 pm

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