During the first decade of the 1900s, Siam found itself in the middle of rival colonizers France and the United Kingdom.
It was threatened to be colonized soon after its neighboring states Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Conceding to the power of either colonizer meant losing possible hopes of independence.
Chulalongkorn, being one of the more brilliant Asian political figures in history, offered Thailand to France and the United Kingdom in order to be a buffer state.
This idea was akin to that of a peace zone where invasions of neither troops was allowed.
While it resulted to Thailand’s relinquishment of Cambodia, Laos and other Malay states, such political move went down in history as Chulalongkorn’s biggest contribution to the Thai political landscape.
Thailand is one of the few countries which has never been a colony of any European state.
In that regard, the Thais must be very proud.
But the political landscape has changed since then.
Arguing that there exists a need for the military to stabilize the State and pursuant to the Martial Law Act of 1914, today, martial law has been declared in Thailand allowing the military to control media outlets, both anti and pro government.
What is peculiar is that the military claims it is not a coup against the current administration.
This view does not seem to be what the protesters think, taking into account their preparation for an alleged “final clash”.
When Thai generals said that the martial law they implemented independent of the decision-making prerogative of the nation’s political branch isn’t a coup, maybe they meant that it wasn’t “yet” a coup.
Whether or not a coup is brewing, what is particularly interesting and to some, may be difficult to reconcile, is the fact that Thais seem to be indifferent about what is happening, moving on with their lives like it’s just any day.
Thailand clearly has a history for political upheavals, to a certain extent, we could say that Thais are used to it.
Cue on “selfies” with tanks on the background going viral in the internet.
What could be the most logical explanation as to why Thailand has not been thrown to panic and paranoia?
Certainly the 11 successful coups and 7 attempts that Thais have seen in the past 80 years (the highest in recent history) are great contributions towards the normalization of their psyche’.
The fact that in recent history, the world has seen how Thailand deposed the billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra as Prime Minister through a bloodless coup; or that former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra along with several following a Thai court’s ruling finding them guilty of abuse of power.
Aside from the moody politics and apparent forgetfulness of Thais, there is nothing I remember more about that country than Pee-Mak, the horror-comedy featuring Mario Maurer in a post-war setting.
Why do I remember that movie more than Thai politics? Maybe because Chulalongkorn is the last great Thai leader.
Maybe because I am still fazed by the fact that Thai economy has not taken any serious beating despite the martial law.
Maybe because the Shinawatras will always be in power and removing them is only a prelude to another family member gaining political momentum.
Maybe because the current martial law does not seem to be an aberration of what looks like a state of permanent political instability.
Had the martial law been declared in some other Asian state, we would have reacted “(w)hat?! Martial law in SG/Indonesia/Malaysia?” but upon hearing that Thailand is once again in a political deadlock aggravated by martial rule, the world was in chorus – “okay, so what’s new?”
*Vince Cesista is a second year Juris Doctor student. He loves good wine but hates paying for it. He likes fluffy dogs too.