Updated: Aug 20, 2020
Reporter: Lulu Lamey
Editor: Prim Kamolyabutr
August 10 2020
Thousands of young, anti-government protesters rallied at the democracy monument in Thailand's capital to call for a new constitution, new elections, end repressive laws and fight for the change they want to see in their country.
BANGKOK - Despite the ban on large gatherings due to covid-19, Thailand has recently experienced one of the biggest anti-government movements that the country has seen in years. Thousands of citizens, led by a group called “free youth” took to the streets of Bangkok to show outrage and fight for change.
Thailand has a history of political unrest, which means the reasons for people's anger are varied and hard to depict. However, these recent protests had three main demands; “for parliament to be dissolved, for the constitution to be re-written and for authorities to stop harassing critics.” Protesters state that they will continue to protest until these requirements are met.
Although there has been controversy regarding the military run government for years, acrimony sparked when the pro-democracy party was dissolved over a loan.
The first political elections since 2014 were held in March 2019 and for many youthful, first time voters, it was a perfect chance for change after years of military rule. However, the country saw the military government rise once again as the Future Forward Party (FFP) “garnered the third largest share of seats.” The leader of FFP, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit was extremely popular amongst youth. Unfortunately, the FFP was forced to disband in February 2020 after they received a loan from Thanathorn which was deemed an illegal donation.
This event is what initially sparked resentment, and thousands of people began to protest right after the situation took place. These protests were then halted by coronavirus lockdowns. In June 2020, a prominent pro-democracy activist, Wanchalearm Satsakit went missing, and was reportedly snatched off the street in Cambodia. This began to heat things up again after a calm lockdown period. Although authorities have denied, protesters believe that the Thai state is responsible for his kidnapping.
The combination of these two events which weaken the Future Forward Party is said to be the reason for this new wave of protests. For years the younger Thai generation has seen their country ruled by this government and not been able to make the change that is needed. As this generation grows up, it is many people's priority to fight for change as many youths feel that “what the government has done is not really democratic and they want a fair government.” (BBC) Seeing other protests around the world, such as the Hong Kong and BLM protests, has inspired many university students to take action and fight for what they want.
Additionally, protesters are finding creative ways to express their feelings, through symbolism from pop culture. An example of this is the three fingered salute from the hunger games which is a symbol of defiance against an authoritarian state. As the circumstances don’t always allow freedom of expression, protesters have to find different ways of expressing themselves without getting into trouble.
As of right now, the protests are mostly peaceful. However, it seems as though the younger generation is determined to make change in their country. Starting with freedom of speech and expression and a government that they feel is more fair and beneficial to all citizens no matter their circumstances. This could be the beginning of a major change in the way Thailand is run and Thai society, with new generations fighting to improve their homeland everyday.
Limited, Bangkok Post Public Company. “Hundreds Rally for Democracy.” Https://Www.Bangkokpost.Com, www.bangkokpost.com/thailand/politics/1953592/hundreds-rally-for-democracy. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.
Tan, Yvette. “Why Young People Are Protesting in Thailand.” BBC News, 1 Aug. 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53589899. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.
“Thousands in Bangkok Rally Against Thai Government | Voice of America - English.” Www.Voanews.Com, www.voanews.com/east-asia-pacific/thousands-bangkok-rally-against-thai-government. Accessed 9 Aug. 2020.