‘The winners write history,’ said many Thai netizens last week in criticisms of a Thai history textbook which praises the military government for establishing “true democracy” in Thailand.
“Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as Prime Minister has carried out a policy of reforming the country, reforming politics to be truly a democracy, eliminating corruption and using moral principles to lead the country to be truly a democracy.”
This is a direct quote from page 195 of “History of the Thai Nation,” a history textbook published by the Ministry of Culture’s Fine Arts Department. The Department issued the controversial book in 2015 at the request of the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO), but it recently went viral when an influential scientist, Jessada Denduangboripant, posted a snippet of the book on Facebook last weekend.
The NCPO asked the Department to write the book with the goal of fostering “national reconciliation” and a better understanding of Thai history from 400 years ago until the present. The book adds that the NCPO staged the 2014 coup to solve the political chaos caused by the civilian government then led PM Yingluck Shinawatra. However, many Thai netizens perceived the book as junta propaganda.
“History of all eras is written by the winners. No matter how evil you are, you can be a hero,” read a comment on Facebook.
On 17 April, Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of a political group called the Association to Protect the Thai Constitution, posted a statement on Facebook demanding the NCPO cease its plan to distribute the books nationwide, and destroy them immediately.
“National reform and political reform did not in fact happen. They were just a motto and propaganda of the NCPO. The constitution that was drafted is very backward and covers up content that lays down a path [for the junta] to maintain power, and be unaccountable for the damage the NCPO has caused to the country,” read the statement. “Therefore, it cannot be seen in any context as a true democracy.”