In Thailand, the path to democracy has been an ongoing and intense struggle. This was emphasised at a recent public forum organized in honor of the gallant students and pro-democracy advocates who lost their lives during a period of military tyranny, half a century ago. This event served as a stark reminder of the distance yet to be covered since the notable October 14, 1973, revolt.
The forum, engineered by the October 14 Institute Foundation, was held at the esteemed Royal Rattanakosin Hotel. The event attracted a wide spectrum of attendees, ranging from survivors of the historic uprising to those intrigued by Thailand’s democratic evolution.
The forum’s leading speaker, Peerapol Triyakasem, the foundation’s chairman, shed light on the pivotal nature of the 1973 student revolt, which sowed the seed of Thailand’s democratic movement. According to him, the rebel movement was an attempt to liberate the nation from the stranglehold of the military that permeated various sectors, including banking, trade, and investment.
However, the revolt’s aftermath saw a shift in the political landscape as capitalism gained a stronghold. Peerapol pointed out how the capitalistic class transformed from merely being financial sponsors influencing political parties to powerful entities maneuvering the appointment of prime ministers.
Peerapol highlighted an entrenched nexus between politicians and capitalists that has developed over the years. He bemoaned the skewed development trajectory of the country, bereft of sustainability and fairness.
Closely resonating with Peerapol’s views, Chaiphan Prapasawat, an advisor to the Assembly of the Poor, warned against the pitfalls of enabling capitalism in politics. He noted that the term “development” is frequently misappropriated to greenlight ambitious projects. He voiced his criticism about the conspicuous lack of comprehensive studies before granting concessions to private entities, often politically intertwined. According to Chaiphan, such practices often jeopardize communities. He championed the decisive role of NGOs in fostering community involvement in government projects.
In the same vein, Sathit Limpongpan, ex-permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry, implored the government to distribute development and investments evenly during the forum. He proposed shifting the focus from major hubs like Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Ratchasima and Phuket, to other provinces. He underscored the import of implementing a sustainable development blueprint for every province.
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