Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Thai – Araya Khatkhuen

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Civil Disobedience, Thai


Araya Khatkhuen

Relates to civil disobedience

‘Civil disobedience’ originated in 1849 with Henry David Thoreau, an American author and philosopher, and was publicised in an essay entitled ‘Civil Disobedience’ in 1854.  In the past, few Thai citizens dared to practice this form of resistance.  However, there have been examples in recent decades when it has become part of public political action. As such the term ‘civil disobedience’ has been seriously discussed, particularly among social scientists.  When referring to the violence in southern Thailand in 2006, Chaivat Sathanand translated the term ‘civil disobedience’ as ‘อารยะขัดขืน’ (araya khatkhuen or civilised disobedience) which, he believed, conveyed fewer negative implications and whilst still maintaining the ‘active’ term.  (อารยะขัดขืนกับการล้มระบอบทักษิณ – Araya khatkhuen kap kan lom raborp Thaksin. 1)

This translation of ‘civil disobedience’ is composed of two words, ‘อารยะ’ (araya or civilised) and ‘ขัดขืน’ (khatkhuen or to disobey). For Chaivat, to be ‘civilised’, the disobedience would have to be demonstrated openly, without violence and the offender should accept any legal consequences or punishment. The term ‘civilised disobedience’ itself reflects only the means of disobedience, not the actors, while the term ‘civil disobedience’ reflects the actors, not the means.

In contrast, according to Kaewsan Atipho’s opinion, the word ‘civil’ should refer to ‘พลเมือง’ (phonlamuang or citizens). He has stated his preference for the phrase ‘การแข็งข้อ ไม่ยอมเป็นพลเมือง’ (kan khaeng kho mai yom pen phonlamuang or refusal to act as civilians) to ‘อารยะขัดขืน’ (araya khatkhuen or civil disobedience) (Matichon 23/3/06: 34).  Chairat Charoensin-o-larn, a researcher in civil society and democratic movements, has used the phrase ‘สิทธิที่จะไม่เชื่อฟังรัฐ’ (sitthi thii ja mai chuafang rat or rights to disobey the State) to refer to the term ‘civil disobedience’. (Kritaya, et al, 1999: xxix and 3)

In the Royal Institute Dictionary of Political Science, the term ‘civil disobedience’ was translated as การขัดขืนอย่างสงบ’ – kan khatkhuen yang sa-ngop / ‘การดื้อแพ่ง’ –  kan due phaeng / ‘การขัดขืนคำสั่ง’ – kan khatkhuen khamsang or ‘non-violent disobedience’.  (Royal Institute Dictionary of Political Science, 2544:  34). Again the term reflects the means to achieve civil disobedience, not the actors. More generally, the term ‘non-violence’ is consistent with the Pali word ‘Ahimsa or Avihimsa’ in Buddhism and with the idea of civil disobedience or resistance (Dictionary of Buddhism, 1989:  416).  However, it is rarely used in the Thai case.

In the period 2005-2010 Thailand saw repeated episodes of civil disobedience. Importantly depending on the political position of specific commentators it is common for more emotive language to be used. To refer to a protest as a ‘mob’ or to protest leaders as ‘terrorists’ is often a way of positing their broader security implications.



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