South Asia and Beyond

‘Taboo Subject Of Thai Monarchy Now In The Open, Protesters Aware It’s A Long Game’

NEW DELHI: In Thailand, “the momentum of protests has been sustained since July,” and “concurrent outside Bangkok” despite Covid-19 or “few signs of compromise from the Government” but those demanding pro-democracy and monarchical reform “know it’s a long-term game,” says Tan Hui Yee, Indochina Bureau Chief of ‘The Straits Times’. Students as young as 14 years old have been demonstrating on the streets and online against “the Constitution drafted under military rule which they argue concentrates power in the hands of the establishment.” The three-finger salute from the ‘Hunger Games’ franchise has “been appropriated by them into a symbol against dictatorship,” she said, adding, the “government is dragging its feet on constitutional reform.” It even declared a state of emergency and then backtracked, continues to make arrests and is pressing charges under several laws. Though water cannon was used against protesters this week, Hui Yee said all sides “are very careful since they’re aware violence will delegitimise them.”

Speaking to StratNews Global Associate Editor Amitabh P. Revi, Ms Tan pointed out that the “biggest impact the students are making so far is to address the taboo topic of the monarchy and bring it out into the open” despite a “generational divide with those who grew up in an era when you didn’t question the monarch.” The Thai monarchy is protected by early 1900s law, which says anyone who defames, insults or threatens the king, the queen, the heir-apparent or the regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years. The pro-democracy protesters see Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government as a legacy of a royalist junta regime. Prayuth, who staged a coup in 2014, became prime minister after a controversial general election last year that activists say was engineered to ensure his hold on power.

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King Maha Vajiralongkorn (Rama X), who has also come in for criticism for spending a majority of his time over the years in Germany is currently back in Thailand and has recently said his country is a “land of compromise” and he loves everyone including the demonstrators “all the same”. But, the protestors have vowed to continue their movement till all their demands for reform are met.

Amitabh P. Revi

Russian language speaker and conflict journalist. Amitabh Revi has been there, done that—from the battlefields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan to sublime Russia, Australia and the United States. Along the way he's picked up the Dag Hammarskjöld Distinguished Journalist Fellowship, the Ramnath Goenka award for coverage of the Iraq War and RT's Khaled Alkhateb Award for his reporting from Palmyra, Syria.