Thailand Protests 2020 – Part 1: History

I debated whether to talk about this or not, as I’m no expert on the political situation in Thailand and/or their history. However, I have been following closely the protests in the USA this year, and what is happening in Thailand now seems soooo familiar, I feel I can speak from that perspective. The other thing that made me want to talk about it is that a number of Thailand celebrities have started talking about it using the phrase “Violence is not the solution,” so I figured that yes in some way, it is related to lakorns, which is supposed to be the main theme of this website.

In Thailand, there are a lot of protests going on against the government right now. Protests have been happening for a while, but recently the protests have garnered more attention recently as protestors have been met with more force from the police and the number of protestors have risen.

A Brief Summary of Thailand’s History

Let me take it a few steps back as before we even talk about the protests going on now, we have to have some idea of the history of the protests. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy (the constitutional part being fairly recent, say 1932) and they have a king, King Vajiralongkorn, as well as a prime minister, General Prayut Chan-o-cha. Thailand had a democratically elected National Assembly, but in 2014, there was a coup and overthrow of the government by military forces, the leader of whom, Prayut Chan-o-cha, took power and then held onto as he was elected the prime minster due to the disputed 2019 elections. It seems as if power has shifted from military leadership to democracy at various times in Thailand’s history, with the monarchy only serving as a figurehead for much of the 20th century. 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After the coup in 2014, of course there was protests, but in 2019 there finally were elections, and while these were problematic, apparently the protests really flared up again with the dissolution by Thailand’s Constitution Court of a political party Future Forward Party (FFP) in Thailand, which had placed 3rd in the 2019 elections and was very popular with students. The dissolution was supposed to be about campaign donations fraud, but as the FFP was an anti-military group and as such was often targeted by the military, this seems to be suspect at best.

Source: Khaosod English’s twitter

The dissolution of the FFP set off protests primarily in schools in February 2020, but COVID soon came along and shut most of the schools (and protests) down, Then in July 2020, again under youth leadership, protests started again with the three demands as stated up above. Protests grew and the response to the protests grew as well, as many people saw the government taking oftentimes violent action against peaceful protesters.

On October 16, police used a water cannon with tear gas, as well as batons and shields against protestors, and the growing violence has led some people to ask celebrities like actors/actresses to step up and speak about these issues.

Protesters in Thailand are demanding these 3 things.

The protests have also seen an increasingly negative view of the monarchy rise and calls for an end to lese majeste laws, where criticism of the monarchy is strictly forbidden. There have been demands made by protesters from 3 to 10 demands, most of them revolving around government reforms and demanding more civil liberties.

Celebrities and Police Response to Protests

As it stands now, public gathering of groups of more than five people have been banned in Thailand, censorship has lead to crackdowns with news programs like the BBC being blocked. Celebrities such as singers/actors Ice Sarunyu and Nickhun have started talking about the protests and some people are looking for more celebrities to do the same.

Source: allkpop

Right now, there are many protests going on around the world. At the core, most of these protests resolve around one simple matter: dissatisfaction with the government. It’s true of the Black Lives Matter protests in the US (which are still continuing by the way). The protests that erupted in Beirut, climate change protests and the protests in Thailand, even the anti mask/anti covid-19 restrictions protests (which I don’t agree) are really all based on dissatisfaction with the government. (Plus a lot of misinformation in the case of anti-maskers.)  

And the usual government response to these protests? Well, they usually respond by clamping down on protesters with pepper spray, tear gas, you name it. This results in an ever-escalating violence oftentimes by the police forward protesters, who the most cases are just exercising their civic duty. The very actions of the police in fact, often exacerbate the situation and make it very clear why people are protesting in the first place.

Please note: My knowledge of Thailand is very shallow, I’m merely sharing what I’ve learned so far, in the hope of encouraging readers to continue furthering their knowledge by clicking on the links and to lay the background as I examine the situation from my perspective as a USA citizen who has been closely following the protests in my country. But this piece seems too long as it is, so I’ll be giving my perspective/comparison/contrast in another post.

Sources: France24, wikipedia, Human Rights Watch, Vox, IndianExpress, BBC, numerous YT videos on protests.