by Meghana Paturu ’22
Published Nov. 15th, 2020
Recently, the act of protesting has become significantly more frequent around the world. Today, hundreds of protests over systemic racism are taking place across the United States and countries in Europe. However, towards the beginning of 2020, citizens in Thailand have begun a widespread protest movement against a crucial issue that has been detrimental to their society: the corrupt Thai monarchy.
Starting from 2014, the widespread discontentment in Thailand began when Maha Vajiralongkorn, the current monarch, appointed Prayuth Chan-Ocha as Prime Minister. Together, they were able to consolidate all government’s power in which they intensified the already strict restrictions on the public.
When addressing the current turmoil occurring in the country, Brad Adams, an Asian activist, addressed the root causes by saying, “Under military rule, Thailand’s human rights crisis has gone from bad to worse, and there seems to be no end in sight. The junta is jailing and prosecuting dissenters, barring public protests, censoring the media, and restricting critical political speech.”
The curtailment of rights was one of the underlying causes of the rise in protests. Still, the conflicting Parliamentary election last year fostered the aggression that directly began decisive protesting in Thailand.
In 2019, during Thailand’s parliamentary election, the courts banned the Future Forward Party (FFP), the most vocal party opposing the junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha. In fact, the party had garnered the third-largest share of seats in parliament with 80 MPs, totaling approximately 6 million votes. After a pause during measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, protests that initially started in January resumed in mid-July. Protestors pushed for Prayuth’s removal, a new constitution, and an end to the unjust harassment.
Unfortunately, the junta continues to ban political activity and peaceful public gatherings, carrying out hundreds of arbitrary arrests and detentions while disregarding severe torture allegations. The junta charged at least 37 people for criticizing military rule and violating the ban on public assembly.
Even though legal changes have yet to occur, protestors believe that they are getting closer to true freedom each day.
To this day, citizens in Thailand are fighting for their rights and are taking great action to reform the governmental system. Although the protests and political activism require remarkable resilience and courage, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkite, the leader of the FFP, is proud to see people rising.
In a recent interview about his work and political party, Thanathorn says that the growing wave of protests genuinely represents “the most exciting time in the history of Thailand.”