Numnual Yapparat and Giles Ji Ungpakorn
Originally, “Mother’s Day” in Thailand was brought in by Field Marshal Pibulsongkram as a political tool to reinforce the idea that Thai society was a big family. We would live together as a big family. Everybody in the family had a duty to perform. Citizens needed to love the nation as their own family. Citizens were expected to behave as good children by obeying their parents without question. Citizens were not allowed to criticise the army because it would undermine national security. Mother’s Day was also about promoting conservative family values.
The generation of dictators that came to power after the 6th October 1976 bloodbath against the students and the Left, rearranged Mother’s Day to suit their royalist purposes. Queen Sirikit was deemed to be “Mother of the Nation”, as though all Thai citizens are merely children.
These days the same nasty concepts are still in use. Why? It works very well to serve the conservative elites and army. The royal family is built up as a “holy family”. The King and Queen are like gods. Then they are used to legitimise the military dictatorships. It enforces the idea that people are unequal and that Thais are no ready for democracy.
The conservatives have tried to single out one mother, the Queen, as a role model. Then if the rest of the mothers “fail” to live up to these high standards it becomes an individual mother’s fault instead of a problem caused by an unequal society. Therefor the elites can avoid taking responsibility for imposing policies that create inequality.
But there is a real problem with the myth that Sirikit is a role model. She is a terrible mother, having never taught her son how to behave. She is extremely vain, having constant cosmetic surgery to unsuccessfully hide her aging process. She is unbelievably greedy and loved to spend millions on shopping trips. She is stupid and holds nasty and violent political views. So the lèse-majesté law is required to cover all this up and stop people criticising her. But it does not work. All Thais know the truth about Sirikit.
The conservative elites proclaim that having Mother’s Day is to show respect to women as mothers. But we know that their words are only empty propaganda.
Do we need this day in order to salute ordinary mothers?
No, it is very awful to see ordinary mothers gathering in school so that their children can be forced to grotesquely perform their love and respect to their mothers. The relationship between mothers and their children becomes like “God worship”. These kind of activities are designed only encourage children to be obedient to authority. The simple daily love between mothers and their children is much more beautiful than the Mother’s Day that the military dictatorship is promoting.
If the state wants to salute the role of mothers then they should impose useful policies to minimise the burden of being mothers. Thailand needs to have decent nurseries near work places provided by state, increased parental leave and child benefit.
It would be much better if mothers have their rights and dignity. Therefore they can give answers to all of the questions from their children. It would be very wonderful if mothers can bring up their children in democratic way of life instead living in a climate of fear.