MAHA SARAKHAM – Last Saturday, authorities closely monitored a small gathering at Mahasarakham University that marked the 85th anniversary of a coup which toppled Thailand’s absolute monarchy and nominally established democracy.
On Saturday, Vinai Poncharoen, Assistant Professor at the university’s Faculty of Political Science and Public Administration, led a small group of students to symbolically light candles on campus to commemorate the event, known as the “Siamese Revolution,” that occurred on the same day in 1932.
Several plainclothes police officers and university security staff closely observed the action. The authorities took photos of the participants and asked them to give their names.
Mr. Vinai had invited students and the public on social media to join him to mark the historical day that used to be a national holiday until 1960.
“I know that there were many more people who wanted to join the event but they left when the authorities came to talk to us,” Mr. Vinai told The Isaan Record.
The gathering was meant to be an “academic event to commemorate 85 years of democracy,” Mr Vinai said, adding that he was aware of the risk as authorities did not want people to talk about the date.
He added that the commemoration was also intended to support the pro-democracy movement in the country.
“I believe that over time the dictatorship will acknowledge its failure,” Mr Vinai said. ”Eventually Thailand will move forward to become a genuine democracy.”
Ahead of the historical event’s anniversary, police in Bangkok prohibited activists from organizing commemorations of the event. The authorities cited inappropriateness of political events during the mourning period of the late king who died last year in October.
In recent years, pro-democracy activists have gathered each anniversary on June 24 at the spot where the 1932 putschists proclaimed the end of nearly seven centuries of absolute monarchy.
The spot on Royal Plaza in central Bangkok was marked by a plaque, which was embedded in the concrete of the square.
In April this year, the plaque mysteriously disappeared and was replaced with a new one which highlights the significance of the royal institution.
The disappearance of the plaque caused an outcry from pro-democracy activists who see it as an attempt by ultra-royalist groups to rewrite history.
At the event at Mahasarakham University, Mr. Vinai called for the return of the plaque and stressed the honest intentions of those seizing power as wanting to bring democracy to the country.
“Although democracy has always been blocked by the power of the opposition, I still believe that we must keep our hopes for democracy,” he said.