Thailand’s protest movement gains momentum amid government opposition

In Bangkok, Thailand, on Saturday, thousands of people participated in continuing pro-democracy demonstrations following a government crackdown on Friday that saw riot police removing water cannons Chemical irritant On the crowd calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Prathuth Chan-Osha.

Protests against the Prime Minister began in March this year, following the dissolution of a popular pro-democracy party, but dramatically increased in size this week, with crowds in the thousands.

The government responded to these escalating protests on Thursday with an emergency decree that banned groups of more than five people and gave police the right to block protesters’ areas of Bangkok. This new measure has led to the arrest of protesters, including a human rights lawyer and several student activists.

The protesters have issued several demands, chief among them being the Prime Minister to resign. A former general, Pruthuth captured power in the 2014 military coup. Three years later a new constitution was enacted by military leaders that set aside seats of parliament for military officers – so much so that protesters argue that the prime minister will retain power regardless of the outcome of the election.

As Panu Wongcha-um reported for Reuters, protesters made three demands in July: “dissolution of parliament, an end to persecution of government critics, and amendments to the military-written constitution.”

Demonstrators are still working towards those goals, but increasingly, protesters are also demanding changes in the country’s monarchy.

As Richard Bernstein explained for Vox, the citizens of Thailand have traditionally avoided statements that can be seen as important to the royal family, currently led by King Maha Vajirlongkorn, who This is due to the “biggest laws” of the country, which is ‘infamous’, abusive, or ‘threatening’ a member of the royal family.

This has changed: For example, in an August protest, a student protest leader gave a speech accusing the government of “fooling us into saying that people born into the royal family are incarnations of God and angels” Are, “and ask,” Are you sure “is the personality of angels or gods? “

According to the Economist, the king, who ascended the throne four years ago, largely rules Europe, but still returns during the days of Thailand’s autocratic throne. His support for the prime minister has disappointed critics of Pruthuth, and his successful efforts to bring royal money and military forces under his direct control have led some protesters to call for new limits on the powers of the monarchy.

Arrests continue to break the country’s biggest laws, and on Friday, two protesters were charged under an obscure law for “an act of violence against the Queen’s freedom” – in this case, Queen Suthida Wazirlongorn Shouting on Na Ayodhya’s motorcycle. The two protesters face a possible life sentence in prison for “endangering the royal family”.

These allegations, as well as threats from the Prime Minister – have not stopped the protesters. Following Friday’s aggressive offensive by police, the demonstrations that continued on Saturday remain largely peaceful – and Bangkok was well-attended despite the closure of public transit. According to the Bangkok Post report, more than 23,000 people turned out at several locations around the city.

A Bangkok student told the New York Times, “The goal is to change the entire political system, including the monarchy and the prime minister.”

A democratic legitimacy crisis

As Vixan’s Zeeshan Alim pointed out in August, Thailand’s opposition rests on the tenth legitimacy of the current government.

Although the current Prime Minister Prathuth won another mandate in 2019, the results of that election are disputed. Since then, a major opposition party has been dissolved by the courts, and pro-democracy activist Wanchalaram Satsakshit was reported missing in Cambodia, presumably taken at the behest of the Thai government.

Wanchalearm has not been seen since his abduction in June, and another dissident Jackpot Pencare, who was in exile, told the BBC in July that Wanchalearm, also known as Tar, was possibly dead.

“I think the message is: ‘Let’s kill these people. These are outsiders, these are people who are different from us and they must be killed to bring Thailand back to normalcy.” But something in that interpretation Also cannot be wrong. I believe that his decision to kidnap and murder Tar, and others before that, have subconsciously radicalized people. “

According to the BBC, the protest movement has been fueled by student activism, but lacks defined leadership. By design – activists have reportedly drawn inspiration from decentralized pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong following the arrest.

To circumvent restrictions on speech, activists have also relied on pop culture symbolism in protests. According to Aleem,

The protesters have used creative methods drawn from the world of popular fiction literature to thwart their criticism of the government and defy allegations of violation of restrictions on political speech. For example, some opponents dress as Harry Potter characters to advance their arguments against the government and the monarchy. Other pro-democracy protesters give three-finger salute Play hungry Chain.

The Thai government’s crackdown on the protesters has been condemned by many international organizations. Human Rights Watch, for example, argued that the ban on protests, as well as other new restrictions, meant that “freedom of speech and the right to peaceful, public gatherings are on a block cut off from a government that is now rightfully its Dictatorship is showing nature. ” Amnesty International has arrested the protesters as a bullying tactic.

It is unlikely that the protest movement will stop soon, though – even as the government’s response begins to echo the echoes of the violent anti-protest seen by Bangkok in the 1970s.

Panapong Jadanok told the Washington Post, “dictatorship must be faced by people even under threat of arrest.” “We will not back down. We will fight till our death. “

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