As democratic revolution gain popularity, state tries its best to stop them

The 24 June 1932 democratic revolution has gained wide public attention on its 88th anniversary. State reaction to the people’s movement celebrating the revolution is based on suspicion and threats, while the military glorify the rebels who tried by force to reinstate the monarchy.

Dr Tossaporn Serirak, a former MP talked with a police officer during the 1932 revolution commemoration event at the Pathum Wan Skywalk, Bangkok.

The countrywide commemorations of the 24 June 1932 Siamese Revolution are recognized as the biggest for at least 10 years as many gathered in public across the kingdom to recall the overthrow of the absolute monarchy 88 years ago.

At least 12 offline events were held in many parts of the country: 3 in Bangkok, 2 in Khon Kaen and 1 each in Rayong, Nakhon Ratchasima, Maha Sarakham, Ubon Ratchathani, Songkhla, Surat Thani and Chiang Mai. There were also several online gatherings and seminars.

The hashtag #24มิถุนา (24 June) also hit Thailand Twitter top trend at the dawn of the day.

The action that caught the attention of the public and media seems to be the reading of the 1st People's Party Declaration, which was read at dawn in 1932 and marked the regime change. About 500 - 700 people gathered at the Bangkok Pathum Wan Skywalk in the afternoon to hear the reading and chant “This country belongs to the people”.

The Declaration mainly highlighted the incompetence of the absolute monarchy that required the revolution to set things rights through 6 principles of development.

Symbols of the revolution and democracy were also introduced into the activities such as the disappeared People’s Party plaque and the sculpture of the constitution on the phan (a plate-like object used mainly in sacred ceremonies). 

Movement criminalized

Although nobody was arrested, the authorities’ reaction toward the commemorations seemed to be suspicious and threatening. To a certain extent, the commemorations were demonized.

The ongoing state of emergency gives the authorities legitimate cause to prohibit public gathering that risk the spread of Covid-19. However, their actions toward people are shady and threatening.

On 23 June, Pol Col Kritsana Pattanacharoen, deputy police spokesperson, gave a press briefing that the military and police found firearms, grenades and ammunition on the Thai-Myanmar border. He cited sources that claimed the weapons would be used in political movements around this time.

This claim was scrutinized by the Myanmar news outlet the Irrawaddy which reported that the weapons were made in China and meant to be sold to armed ethnic groups in Myanmar.

Media and people were paying attentions to the commemoration activity at the Democracy Monument at the dawn of 24 June 2020.

On the same day, the people who wanted to gather for commemorations in Yasothon and Surin provinces faced pressure from the authorities to minimize the Yasothon event and cancel the one in Surin.

A source from the movement in Yasothon told Matichon that the group was contacted by the authorities not to hold the event otherwise they would face legal charges. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights reported that the event at Surin faced similar pressure from the police and Village Head.

In Khon Kaen province, students and activists gathered at the Democracy Monument in Muang Khon Kaen district. The authorities put up fences to keep people away from the monument.

Other events that were held offline faced pressure from police officers at the scene. In Surat Thani, a public panel had to be called off 1 hour before schedule as 2 administrative authorities came to check on the venue.

The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) also faced 2 visits from the police before a public panel about the 1932 revolution. Gwen Robinson, the FCCT President, said 12 police officers showed up at the panel. 8 remained at the venue while the manager negotiated for the others to leave.

Graffiti artist Headache Stencil has alledgedly been visited by four plainclothes police officers at his condominium last night (25 June) , after he projected images of Pridi Banomyong and other members of the People's Party onto the wall of Wat Ratchanadda Temple at around 1.00 on 24 June to commemorate the 88th anniversary of the 1932 Siamese Revolution.

Parit Chiwarak, an activist from the Student Union of Thailand who organized the gathering at the Pathumwan Skywalk posted on Facebook an hour after the live video was streamed that he was being followed by plainclothes officers in cars and on motorcycles.

Piyarat ‘Toto’ Chongthep, an activist and former MP candidate of the Future Forward Party attended the gathering at dawn on 24 June in Bangkok and was served an arrest warrant for his part in an earlier assembly. 

He decided to turn himself in at noon but during the morning, he was followed by someone who seemed to be a plainclothes policeman. The man said he wanted to take Piyarat to meet ‘the boss’. He did not answer when Piyarat asked him to identify himself.

Military cherishes royalists and rebels

As the people remembered the democratic revolution of the People’s Party, the Royal Thai Army (RTA) was constructing another version of history. The RTA secretariat published a press release reporting a merit-making ceremony for Prince Boworadet, who led a failed rebellion against the People's Party government led by Gen Phraya Phahon Phon Phayuhasena a year after the 1932 revolution.

The press release stated that the Prince’s reason for rebelling was that the Phahon government resembled an authoritarian regime. The rebels called for a more democratic government, with the monarchy intact and a check and balance system against the government.

The courageous heroic act and devotion of Prince Boworadet and Phraya Srisitthisongkhram [Boworadet’s deputy] are worth praising as they earnestly protected the monarchy. They also wished for the country to truly remained democratic.”, stated the press release.

Left to right: Rooms at the RTA Headquarters that are named as Boworadet and Srisitthisongkhram.

According to the historical record, the Boworadet rebellion had 6 demands, 2 of which relate to the distribution of power in parliament. One guaranteed that Siam will be ruled under a constitutional monarchy forever and the second granted the King the power to appoint half of the MPs.

The military have taken many measures to erase the legacy of the People’s Party. 

A statue of Field Marshal Plaek Phibulsongkhram was removed from in front of the National Defence College in January 2020. His museum at the artillery base in Lopburi province was also shut down.

Around the same time, a statue of Phraya Phahon was also removed from the artillery base in Lopburi. The museum, which contains his belongings donated by his descendants, was also put off-limits.

On March 2020, the Royal Gazette announced that the Artillery Centre in Lopburi, known as “Fort Phaholyothin”, had been renamed “Fort Bhumibol,” after King Bhumibol, King Vajiralongkorn’s father. The “Fort Phibulsonggram” Artillery Brigade Camp nearby was also renamed “Fort Sirikit” after Queen Sirikit, the Queen Mother.