After 58 years: “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper”, Khrong Chandawong and words that still live on

On the 58th anniversary of the execution of Khrong Chandawong by Sarit Thanarat under Section 17 of the constitution of the time, the quote “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper” still hasn’t died away and is still used to fight against Gen Prayut’s junta; many still use this quote to protest, and have been prosecuted.

31 May 2019 is the 58th anniversary of the execution of Khrong Chandawong, teacher and important force in the Free Thai Movement in the Phu Phan Mountains, a fighter for justice and equality and the owner of the nickname “Hero of Sawang Daen Din”.

“Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper”, Khrong said before being executed by firing squad in Sawang Daen Din District on 31 May 1961, under Section 17, which gave absolute power to Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who claimed that the execution was for the sake of keeping peace, order and the good morals of the nation.

Khrong won the election as a representative of the people of Sakon Nakhon Province in the name of the Naeoruam Setthakon Party. He was able to hold the position for only 10 months before Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat launched a coup to take power, cancel the parliamentary system and elections, rule the country with a constitution of only 20 sections, and then wipe out journalists and opposition politicians.

According to an article by Ittidech Prapech published by Prachatai in September 2018, the excuse provided for Khrong’s execution was “under the power of Section 17 of the Kingdom’s Constitution and the resolution of the Council of Ministers at the Tuesday 30 May 1961 meeting, the Thai Police shall execute Khrong Chandawong and Thongpan Sutthimat for the security of the nation and the crown. The Police shall perform the order as soon as possible. This order is issued on 30 May 1961, signed Field Marshal S. Thanarat, Prime Minister.”

The execution order of Khrong and Thongpan according to Section 17, was read out by a Police Lieutenant General in a field behind the Sawang Daen Din District Office, Sakon Nakhon Province, which had been transformed into an execution ground on 31 May 1961, at around noon.

Khrong’s political fight

Further information on Khrong’s political fight is given in a report on Silapawattanatham website (silp-mag.com). This reports that Khrong used to be part of the Isan Free Thai Movement together with Tiang Sirikhanth, also a Member of Parliament for Sakon Nakhon Province. He was always involved in protests against non-democratic government systems. He was arrested over the Baengyaek Dindaen (separatist) revolt in 1948 and the Santiphap (peace) revolt in 1952. He was released in around 1957, under an amnesty to celebrate 2500 years of Buddhism. When Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat launched a coup against Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram, parliament was dissolved and an election was held in the same year. Khrong registered as an MP candidate and was elected as a representative of Sakon Nakhon Province until Field Marshal Sarit launched a second coup to seize power in 1958, under an absolute dictatorship. He revoked the parliamentary system and stopped elections, then wiped out and suppressed a great number of journalists and opposition politicians.

At first Khrong wasn’t eliminated in this first round, but he had to resign from parliament and became a teacher, and worked in agriculture and trade in Sakon Nakhon. He also continued to work with the people like before, with the goal to gather farmers together to help each other as his priority. Khrong provided advice on agriculture by having the villagers help each other in farming. At the same time, he also opposed dictatorship.

Khrong and his friends established a secret association called “Samakkhi Tham” (Justice Unity) to oppose dictatorship and teach poor people about the importance of the working class. Khrong fought against dictatorship until he was surrounded and arrested on 6 May 1961 and was eventually executed without a trial by the order of Field Marshal Sarit under Section 17.

“Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper” today and the prosecution of those who use the slogan.

 

“Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper” has been used to campaign against Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, whether on a vinyl banner or on a flyer. For example, for placing “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper, 7 Aug, Vote No” flyers around a parking lot before the constitutional referendum, Samat Kwanchai was charged under the 2016 Referendum Act, Section 61 (1), Paragraph 2. Later, on 24 April 2017, the Chiang Mai Provincial Court dismissed the case and that is the final judgement since the prosecutor did not appeal.

Or on 21 March 2015 in Rayong Province, “Wake up and stand up to fight… all democracy lovers, dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper” flyers were scattered around educational institutions, including kindergartens, high schools and technical colleges. It was during a time when the situation in Bangkok was tense, starting with the 70th Chula-Thammasat Football Game on 7 February 2015. On the stand, there appeared 2 banners reading “Coup = Corruption” and “Dictatorship shall fall, democracy shall prosper”. Soon, signs written in a familiar fashion sprouted in various corners or near various universities, including Burapha University, Ramkhamhaeng University, Chulalongkorn University, and King Mongkut's University of Technology North Bangkok.

In Rayong Province, Pholawat Warodomputthikul, 22, who had recently graduated from university and started working in a large company in Rayong for less than a year, was charged with scattering the flyers, under Articles 116 and 368 of the Criminal Code. After being detained at a police station for 2 days, he was moved to Chonburi Military Court, since it was a case of national security and was released on 70,000 baht bail. Later he was also charged with a violation of the Computer Crime Act, for taking a photo of a flyer he had posted and sending it to the Facebook page of the League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy. Pholawat admitted that he did in fact take the photo and sent it but had no intention to incite or have it affect national security.

iLaw’s report on progress in the case says the 4th prosecution witness was questioned and on 17 May, another witness was called for examination at the military court located in Nawaminrachini Camp, 14th Military Circle. But the military prosecutor declared that the summoned witness was unable to come to court because of necessary and urgent official business, and so requested that the questioning be postponed. The defence lawyer did not object, and the new date for witness examination is 23 July 2019.