The arduous pursuit of democracy in Thailand remains a persistent struggle, mirrored by the public forums conducted in memory of the valiant youths and advocates of liberty who succumbed during the brutal military rule five decades back. These forums stand as grim reminders of the little advancement accomplished since the momentous uprising on the 14th of October, 1973. The October 14 Institute Foundation, in commemoration of this event, organized these forums, hosting them at the illustrious Royal Rattanakosin Hotel. The attendees of these sessions were as varied as the topics discussed, ranging from the old generation who were a direct witness to the uprising to young individuals intrigued by the nation’s evolutionary saga.
At the heart of the discussion, Peerapol Triyakasem, the esteemed chairman of the foundation, emphasized the 1973 students uprising’s importance. He reflected upon how this uprising catalyzed the birth of democratic movements in Thailand, with an aim to break free from the iron grasp of military dominance in key sectors including banking, commerce and more. Conversely, this victory was fleeting as it acted as the harbinger for an era dominated by capitalism gradually infiltrating the political realm. As Peerapol noted, capitalists underwent a transformation that enabled them to evolve from mere financial contributors enjoying a sway over political parties, to powerful entities capable of dictating the appointment of prime ministers. This indicated an interdependent bond between politicians and capitalists nurtured over the past several decades.
While acknowledging the disturbing trend of capitalists wielding political power, Peerapol expressed his regret over the nation’s development journey that didn’t manage to strike a balance between sustainability and equitable growth. In alignment with Peerapol’s thoughts, Chaiphan Prapasawat, the distinguished advisor to the Assembly of the Poor, shone a spotlight on the darker aspects of capitalism in politics. He emphasized how the term “development” is often veiled jargon for the inception of large-scale projects. Criticizing the approval of concessions extended to private organizations without thorough studies, he went onto reveal how these organizations were often linked to political entities. As per Chaiphan, such practices have precipitated detrimental aftermaths for communities. Advocation for a greater role to be given to NGOs was prominently emphasized by Chaiphan, with greater community involvement being pegged to government projects being a key focus area.
Former Secretary of the Finance Ministry, Sathit Limpongpan, in his speech at the forum, called for the government to distribute development and investments, a scoop picked up by the Bangkok Post. He urged for the shift in focus from major cities like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phuket to other provinces. Further to this, he outlined the need for government participation in chalk out a sustainable growth map suited for each province’s unique needs.
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