Back in November, friends invited me to join a protest against the amnesty bill. Out of interest I attended, and we walked to the Democracy Monument. Feelings were running high against the Pheu Thai-led government, whom my friends regarded as totally unde
I posed the same questions to several people: “What difference would it make in your life were this government to remain in power? Would your life change if true democracy was established?” They all gave the same answer: “No, it wouldn’t really change my life.”
“So why do you protest?”
Without hesitation: “Because I love my King and my country, and for democracy.”
During the past six months I have posed the same question to protesters sleeping on the streets, those providing free food, businesspeople, doctors, nurses and protesters from all walks of life. Most gave the same reply: “For my King, country and true democracy.” Many simply said, “We love the King”, others, “We want democracy.”
When I asked pro-government demonstrators about their motivation, they told me they were paid to attend the rallies. Some claimed to receive as much as Bt1,000, provided they handed their ID cards to the organisers and stayed late. They showed little interest in the monarchy or Thailand but spoke mainly of returning Thaksin Shinawatra “to protect democracy”.
Both groups of people felt strongly about their different causes. The one word they shared was “democracy”, which was confusing. If they both wanted the same thing, why were they so strongly opposed? They are separated by the one word upon which they agree: “democracy”. There must be a solution here, but who is able to provide it? It’s not really complex – it’s only a word.
Surely an agreed-upon explanation of democracy is the answer to Thailand’s troubles.
Thailand is my home and one day I shall die here (though not for many years, I hope). At times I feel frustration with my adopted home, but I have the choice. My choice is King and country, and yes, of course, democracy.