If you’ve been following the news closely or even just spending a lot of time on social media, then you’ve probably heard about the current events in Thailand. But what exactly is going on? We break it down for you to help you understand what’s happening in Thailand.
What is happening?
— Thai Enquirer (@ThaiEnquirer) October 19, 2020
All across Thailand, young people are leading protests to call for major democratic reforms. Thousands of people have joined the movement, flocking the streets and drawing attention to their cause. Several protesters have already been arrested, but that hasn’t stopped the protests.
What’s so special about these protests?
Protests may not be a new thing in Thailand, but these protests are truly something novel. Why?
These protests are unprecedented because the voices behind it are demanding for change in the monarchy’s power and wealth. In a country where the royalty are revered to a god-like level, with nearly unlimited power and finances at their hands, any criticism against the royal family is illegal.
— Thisrupt (@Thisruptdotco) October 19, 2020
While these protests are dominating the news right now, this conflict has been going on for months already. At the beginning of this year, university students rallied in response to a court decision to dissolve the Future Forward party, a prominent opposition to the current administration. The pandemic put the protests at a pause for a few months, but they’re back with a vengeance. During lockdown, the country’s economy greatly suffered, and so frustration among the people continued to brew.
What are they fighting for?
— oding⁸ ☀️🌻 (@babiegulf) October 19, 2020
Protesters are disillusioned by the cycle of coups and the years of military rule under the current government. They have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the former army chief who led the coup in 2014 and kept the country under military rule since. Instead of the junta government, the youth want democracy, demanding amendments to the constitution, the dissolution of the parliament, a new election, and an end to the harassment of government critics.
On top of the calls for change in the government, protesters are also demanding that the monarchy’s power be curbed. The United Front of Thammasat issued 10 demands for monarchy reform, including the reduction of the royal budget and the abolishment of the lese majeste law.
How are they protesting?
— joe black (@joe_black317) October 19, 2020
During the lockdown due to the pandemic, activists took to online platforms such as Twitter to call for changes in the current government and demand answers about the disappearance of well-known activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit, who was in self-exile in Cambodia. In the middle of July, protests earnestly picked back up all across the country.
Partly inspired by the Hong Kong demonstrations, the protesters also look to no single leader. However, several prominent activists remain in the spotlight and thus were subsequently arrested, including human rights lawyer Anon Nampa, who was the first to speak up openly about his opinions on the country’s monarchy, and Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, who delivered the 10-point manifesto demanding reforms on the monarchy.
How have authorities responded?
A video that is being widely shared on social media showing riot control police pushing back anti-government protesters to allow the royal motorcade to pass through. This is an unprecedented scene that no-one expected to see pic.twitter.com/TjbnVgIyhM #ม๊อบ14ตุลา #Thailand
— Richard Barrow in Thailand 🇹🇭🇬🇧 (@RichardBarrow) October 14, 2020
While Prime Minister Prayuth has stated that he will take into consideration some of the demands of the protesters, he also called for a stop to the criticisms of the royals. On the other hand, the monarchy made no statements regarding the protests and the demands on royal reform.
The government initially banned large gatherings of five or more people. However, demonstrators defied this, and thousands of people flocked the streets in the days following the ban. Media coverage is also being restricted, with investigations on four independent media outlets ongoing due to their coverage of the demonstrations. The government has also issued an emergency decree that grants the police powers to arrest anyone suspected of being involved in the protests.
What do the citizens think of these protests?
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Reactions are mixed. Support of the pro-democracy movement comes from a broad demographic, but mostly dominated by much of the younger generation. Several Thai celebrities and personalities have also shown solidarity with the demonstrations. Some have used their platforms to raise awareness on what is going on, like Miss Thailand Universe Maria Poonlertlarp, while others have gone as far as donating to the cause and joining demonstrations, like actress Intira “Sai” Charoenpura.
On the other hand, most of the older generation remain in support of the monarchy, creating disagreements and tension in Thai families and households. After several days of pro-democracy protests, royalists have also come out to gather and show their support for the monarchy. Thai Pakdee, a group made up of mostly older people, called for the protection of the royalty, sporting banners saying “We Love The King” and “Save the Nation.”
Can you do anything to help?
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) October 18, 2020
Several personalities in different countries all over the world have shown their support for the pro-democracy movement in Thailand. Exhibit A: activist Joshua Wong from Hong Kong. If you want to show your support for the movement, you can educate yourself and others by reading up on the history and current happenings in Thailand. Call attention to the movement by sharing information on your online platforms. This handy card on what’s happening in Thailand may make things easier for you.
What do you think of this movement? Share your thoughts with us below.