Commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the Oct 14, 1973 uprising turned toward reconciliation as core leaders from the October Generation offered compromising words for the red shirt movement, but urged it to embrace other grass-roots democratic forces.
People hold wreaths commemorating the 40th anniversary of the 14 October 1973 at Sanam Luang. (Photo by Apichit Jinakul)
Seksan Prasertkul, a former student leader of the October Generation, said at Thammasat University auditorium that the spirit of the Oct 14, 1973 uprising was to fight against dictatorships and establish democracy. All parties should hold it firmly as it was only with "valuable democracy" can a peaceful society be sustained.
Mr Seksan, a retired Thammasat University political scientist, said in light of the increasing rights and liberty of the people following the October uprisings, new political classes have emerged and collaborated -- one was the middle class-based movement that was concerned about natural resources and the environment, and the other, the provincial middle class, was engaged in the representative parliamentary system.
"These two capitalist groups of the provincial and urban middle class have been incredibly good partners in striving against the old capitalist and political forces," said Mr Seksan.
He emphasised that the 14 October students had actually tried to bring in "edible democracy" by advocating fairer wages for labourers. But the recent emerging capitalist political forces have been doing this quite successfully and more concretely.
Mr Seksan said that at times this "new political leadership might have got their hands dirty" when they acquired power, but if their faults were not serious mistakes and not jeopardizing Thai democracy, any conflicts or problems arising from these political capitalist groups should be dealt with by democratic means.
The former student, who was a member of the Anand Panyarachun-chaired Reform Council Committee during the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration, said the 2006 coup was a blunt overthrowing of the elected government in an unconstitutional way.
"Ultimately, the coup ushered in forces that would like to bring the Thai parliament back to the old days dictated by authoritarianism. It has also crippled growth and expansion of political parties," said Mr Seksan.
Ironically, Mr Seksan said, many in the urban middle class did not seem to uphold democratic principles and mis-stepped in responding to certain mistakes of the government from the new groups of capitalists.
The activist-cum academic was referring to the Thaksin Shinawatra administration ousted over charges of corruption.
Mr Seksan noted that the mistake of the coup was not about philosophical principles but that the coup makers had miscalculated the massive number of protesters and the formation of middle to lower class capitalist responses.
The anti-coup movement also miscalculated the scale of retaliation of the old elite power. Hence, Thai society has become socially fragmented and politically vulnerable to civil war.
Referring to the red shirt movement, Mr Seksan suggested the political group should realise the changing dynamic of Thai society which has become less homogeneous and more representative of various ethnicity, values and ways of life. So the political movement should embrace and not belittle different types of democratic organisations.
"The movement should be a tool of struggle for democracy and not a means for a single government or political party unless the plight of their protected and loved party and leaders directly affects the survival of Thailand's democracy," said Mr Seksan.
Chaturon Chaisaeng, education minister and a key student leader during the Oct 14, 1973 uprising said democracy required strong monitoring mechanisms and scrutiny by the people.
The Oct 14 lessons for all were to tell the ruling power that they could not easily hold on to or monopolise power for their own sake too long, said Mr Chaturon.
The judiciary review keenly expedited by the old elite forces in the past couple of years had proven to be disastrous to the very institution, he noted.
Writing the constitution had become a tricky business and had drifted away from the people's sovereign power, so he suggested that amendments were needed.
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