Starting point: Thailand in 1932

The second starting point in this series is Thailand in 1932.

This is, of course, the year that Thailand’s Absolute Monarchy was shaken by a revolution that instituted a constitutional system. There are many who have dwelled on the changes that followed. Back in 2003, Chris Baker published a translation of “The History of Our Party and Some of its Lessons” by Tho Phianwitthaya (Wirat Angkhathawon). This is a study of the Communist Party of Thailand by one of its leading figures.

Baker’s translation made its way into the Journal of Contemporary Asia under the title  “An internal history of the Communist Party of Thailand“.

One of the main stanzas suggests that:

Within the People’s Party, thinking was divided into two wings. The right wing were representatives of big capitalists and landlords who wanted only to share the power of the feudal monarchy; the left wing were representatives of national capital who wanted a western capitalist form of democratic government. This group made a successful coup on 24 June 1932 and changed the way Thailand was governed. In this event, the major power was the military power in the hands of the right wing, while the left wing lacked resolution. Hence the result went the way of the right wing. Even though the king was formally placed under a constitution, and a parliamentary system was introduced, the change in government was essentially from absolutism under which feudalists were the sole class with power, to joint dictatorship between big landlords and big capitalists. Politicians who represented national capital were either swallowed up or shoved out. In the forty years since the change of government, a fascist military government has held power for most of the time.

This is not, I’d expect, how most Thais today look at the events of 1932. But is this analysis a big part of what makes the 1932 starting point so important, and so contested? As always, please let us know what you think.

Next up…Laos, 1975