signifying very different ideas of where Thailand should be heading. Nitirat (“law for the people”), a group of seven Thammasat University law lecturers, last October offered a few proposals to reform Holy Writ in Thailand including throwing out many of the judicial decisions put in place after the 2006 coup. They also propose to amend the lese majeste law.
Under the current Thai constitution three sections are noteworthy:
Section 3. The sovereign power belongs to the Thai people. Section 8. The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship and shall not be violated. Section 30. All persons are equal before the law and shall enjoy equal protection under the law.
Section 30 is under the heading: Rights and Liberties of Thai People. This point alone speaks volumes about the Thai concept of equality. Like many things in Thailand that I simply can’t figure out, like how these three sections are reconciled in terms of power, I seek refuge inwatching to the point of exhaustion, start to dream of my former life as a prince, and nod off into a very dark place. Thailand remains a mystery.
In light of traditional Thai perspectives of governance, Nitirat’s proposals are plain heresy with recommendations that the military be subordinated to civilians and that the power of the people reigns supreme. A few of the more striking ideas:
• The monarch has the duty to protect the Constitution.
• A new head of state must swear an oath to abide by and to protect the Constitution.
The idea that a Thai monarch would be required to swear an oath to a constitution is an extremely radical idea in Thailand and deserves a wide discussion. This idea caught me off guard I must say. I don’t know who these professors are, but they are certainly bold. Nitirat also recommended big changes to Thailand’s lese majeste law.
Needless to say, Nitirat’s proposals were met with a firestorm of abuse as the comment stream from ผู้จัดการ/Manager reveals where members of Nitirat were called “dogs,” “aliens,” and “not human” and demands that they be “thrown off helicopters,” “necklaced and burned alive,” “beheaded,” and “have their heads put on stakes outside Thammasat” were made. There were calls for Ajarn Worachet to be executed. General Prayuth publicly requested that members of Nitirat leave the country.
Such is the political discourse here.
Nitirat has received international support.
On the other side of the political spectrum a recent film, Shakespeare Must Die, was banned by the Thai Film Board as being too divisive. This film is an adaptation of Macbeth and an allegory of Thaksin’s pursuit of power and ultimate destruction of Thailand. The makers of this film argue in their comments that Thailand is living in “Shakespearean times” and that “there is a hunger for full-blooded, ferocious art that does not shy away from meaty issues of spiritual corruption, of right and wrong” yet could these artists stomach another Shakespearean adaptation from the opposite perspective?
Ing K, the director spoke to the Film Board speaking passionately about the role of art in a nation’s soul. She has great insight in speaking about Western culture: “Why do we welcome only their junk culture and keep out their best?” She continues, “Our country must survive and endure, and truly, it can only endure through virtue.”
Thai filmmakers of a different political persuasion need to make a movie to counter this one and they both need to be shown to the public. This would be a huge step forward for Thailand.