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Middle class and well educated Thais will be in for less shock and better equipped to handle political change if they do not cling on to the "tales" of rural folks being politically naive, of all Thais loving one another and coexisting in harmony under a benign father figure, said Thammasat University political scientist Prajak Kongkirati.

"In the end these tales cannot support the society. It cannot stop change," said Prajak, who recently wrote about the issue in an anthology on red shirts which was published by OpenBooks publishing house.

Prajak said those still clinging on to such tales have two choices. First, they can keep clinging to it at the risk of "impending political change" brought about by the political awakening of rural and poor Thais. On the other hand, Prajak continues, they can "open up their mind" to other social realities and be better equipped from what he sees as an impending political upheaval.

Prajak said the Thai mainstream mass media is one of the three major players which perpetuates the "tales" that rural folks are either naive or corrupt.

"[The mainstream mass media] have become conservative to the point where they do not wish to see change," Prajak enthused. "I don't think they're naive about it. The role of the mainstream mass media is to perpetuate the old tales."

National artists recognised by the state also came out in the aftermath of last year's April-May bloody crackdown on red-shirt protesters which led to 91 deaths to paint the picture of Thai society as being in harmony, mutual love and under benign guidance. "I think they're afraid of change and is satisfied with this old world".

Two other major players which perpetuate the old "tales" are the education system and rituals. Prajak said the education system presented rural Thai society as idyllic where farmers live off the rice field with water buffaloes in isolated tranquility and with no conflicts with others in society while in fact conflict exists and farmers are politically active and connected through mobile phones, physical mobility and other means. As for ritual, Prajak said December 10, the Constitution Day is one good example as people's struggle for a constitiution has been deleted from the public's memory and replaced by King Rama VII having bestowed the first charter without any people struggle.

"The [Constitution Day] is now commemorated by paying respect to Rama VII statue [at the parliament] instead of going to Democracy Monument] so democracy is about a personality, a good king or a good leader."

Prajak warned that despite those who wish to perpetuate the tales, the new discourse on the ground and on the internet is fast changing.

"The crisis over the past three to four years saw new tales being told. It has also become more widespread. The new tales challenge the old ones about the rural folks, about the white knight and it's recognised not just by educated people but ordinary folks too," he said, adding that new tales haven't fully formed itself to replace the old ones yet, however. "The on-line world is creating new tales though the new tales haven't been fully articulated yet." 

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