BANGKOK – Weighing in on the controversy created by a recent Thai PBS television show, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army Prayuth Chan-ocha issued a strongly-worded statement today warning against the trend of conversation in Thai society.
“This kind of activity, where two persons talk to each other, is dangerous and can lead to division in our country,” Prayuth said in front of assembled reporters.
Building on previous comments in which the general blasted the directors of Thai PBS for airing episodes of talk show “Tob Jote” which included frank discussions on the monarchy and the “112” lese majeste law, Prayuth focused his new attack on the bigger picture of what he called “a grave threat to our kingdom, morals, and way of life.”
“Conversations presume that the participants are equals, who have equal right to speak and equal value to contribute ideas,” he explained. “This goes against long-held Thai values.”
According to the general, Thais should engage exclusively in monologues, lectures, speeches, compliant media consumption, the taking of orders, and other forms of one-way communication.
“A child must listen to his parents. A wife must obey her husband. A novice monk must be silent in front of his abbot. And all of you may not interrupt me when I speak,” he said. “These kinds of relationships are the very foundation of Thai society. Why should we threaten this with Western ideas?”
Prayuth also unveiled a large chart outlining the structure of an ideal Thai society, with every relationship clearly delineated between superior and inferior positions. Along with predictable relationships such as teacher-student, master-servant, and amart-prai, the chart also provided helpful tips on determining who had the superior rank in more subtle cases, such as between friends.
“The older friend should talk, the younger should listen,” he said. “Unless the younger friend has expertise on the subject, or is a member of a wealthier family.”
Addressing possible criticism that his system might be impractical, Prayuth said that one-way communication was actually quite flexible, because parties could take turns being the dominant party in some cases.
“For example, I might allow the waiter to tell me the day’s specials and chef’s recommendations, before assuming the dominant position and placing my order,” he said. “By avoiding conversation, orderly structure is maintained.”
While stopping short of asking for a law banning conversation, Prayuth warned all Thai media outlets that furthering the practice of conversation might eventually result in “drastic actions.” He suggested that television and radio programs that were conversation-based restructure themselves to be more monologue-based.
“When Thai people hear two persons saying two different and contradictory things, it causes confusion and discord,” he said. “They don’t know which person is right, and therefore they don’t know what to believe. They are left to make their own decision, which is not acceptable.”