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Thailand at the crossroads. The anti-government protesters vs Thai establishment – VIDEO

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This video provides some background of the protests and their challenge ahead. They are battling a deeply entrenched “establishment”, including the Army, the government, the Bangkok ‘elite’ and years of conservative traditions protecting the revered Thai monarchy. The protesters are young, educated and motivated. The government controls the levers of power. What will happen?

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Whilst the daily media coverage of the current protests in Thailand might give you the impression that Thailand is in some sort of chaotic mess, it’s really nothing like that.

Yes, there are some protests going on in isolated parts of the city. Yes, they’re disruptive to local traffic and they are getting plenty of media attention. But the vast majority of Thais, whilst many will be keeping abreast of the developments, are just getting on with their life and much of what you’d call Thai life is bubbling along like usual.

On the other hand Thailand is coming to terms with an economy mostly devoid of tourism. People are rearranging their lives and finding new jobs, but again, it’s not as if there are long lines of unemployed, beggars or starving people. In most locations around Thailand, leaving out some of the tourist hot spots, like Phuket, Pattaya and Koh Samui, life is just plugging on. Even in those locations, once out of the touristy parts, the local economies are adapting and managing.

The people losing their work from tourism have, mostly, headed home to their families and are getting absorbed into family businesses or community life. It’s a cultural resilience that is helping Thailand adapt and survive, even thrive in some sectors, during the worldwide pandemic.
There isn’t even any tangible link between the two issues – the Covid-19 pandemic and the current protest movement. The push for change of the political status quo has been brewing ever since the current government seized power in 2014, firstly as an Army-led coup against the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra, and then after the March 2019 election, when the coup leaders were able to cobble together a workable, and at least on paper, legitimate government.

But be assured, Covid-19 pandemic or not, this protest movement would have surfaced anyway and is driven by idealism and political evolution, not the pandemic or economy. The protesters are mostly educated students from middle class families and they’ve never once made mention of the lack of tourists or even the broader Thai economy. They’re not disaffected opposition politicians, or even identify with the old red shirt/yellow shirt protests. They are mostly fresh, younger voices.

The protesters’ demands have been unfalteringly consistent. Based on a 10 point manifesto, first read out at Thammasat University’s Rangsit Campus on August 10 this year.

The demands are that the Thai PM resign, that the parliament is dissolved for a fresh election, that a new constitution is written to replace the 2017 Charter and that officials stop harassing protesters and people speaking out against the government. Most of those would be the sorts of things you may expect from opposition MPs or anti-government protesters. But this time they spiced up their wish list with a controversial demand for changes in the role of the country’s revered monarchy. They have strenuously denied that they want to get rid of the Thai monarchy, instead, they want a new constitution to codify the role of the Thai monarch and limit the powers which they claim, are currently unfettered.

The hurdle for change, however, is that the current system is stacked against just about everything the protesters are demanding, especially the changes to the role of the Thai monarchy.

For any of these changes to take place there will have to be a national consensus, a new constitution and some sort of response, even involvement from the Palace.

The students are demanding change, now, but the reality is that, for a peaceful transition, there will certainly need to be constructive discussions, a desire to change and a passage of time. None of that, given the history of Thai coups and the role of the Army, appears likely at the moment.

Whilst the government is trying to diffuse the situation by calling emergency sessions of parliament, even offers to drops the State of Emergency or release some of the arrested protesters, there is still an enormous political gulf between the demands of the protesters and the government’s preparedness to change.

 

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Joe

    Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 4:36 pm

    Funny today in the Bangkok Post there was an article from one of the country’s leading economists saying how much the country was suffering economically with many businesses all over the country either already closed or on the edge of bankruptcy and that this was a major reason for the protests. The Thaiger on the other hand is saying everything is just dandy economy wise. Maybe the Thaiger should do more research before uttering this nonsense, anyone who has been following the news lately will know that Thailand’s economy is in huge trouble. Somehow the Thaiger has missed this fact.

    • The Thaiger & The Nation

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 4:44 pm

      Remember Roger we’re business people too and speak to hundreds of our peers each week.

      • Avatar

        Michael

        Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 5:14 pm

        I have my own way to judge the economy. It is the homeless index.
        When I walk from my condo to the market (just a couple of hundred meters) I count the homeless.
        One year ago there were 0.
        Yesterday I counted 11.
        And every month the number goes up.

      • Avatar

        Joe

        Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 7:46 pm

        So the other English media in Thailand is exaggerating what’s going on?You have put a positive spin on things that I have not heard from anyone else.

      • Avatar

        Dawson

        Friday, October 23, 2020 at 12:26 pm

        Perhaps you are business people, but you sure don’t understand economy. The current GDP is minus 10 percent. If things don’t change, this number will be closer to minus 20 percent by January. In comparison, the financial crisis of 1998 resulted in a GDP minus of 3 percent. With these numbers, Thailand’s economy is back to the levels of 1980. This is 40 years of growth destroyed in one year. This kind of economic collapse will make the Thai economy look a lot more like Central Africa than an Asian Tiger.

  2. Avatar

    preesy chepuce

    Thursday, October 22, 2020 at 11:07 pm

    Even if superficially there is no link between economics and protests, the observable reality is that all over the world, where there is a sudden economic impact, there is a sudden uprising of protests. Even if they don’t say it or don’t know it, economics is the engine behind everything.

  3. Avatar

    Issan John

    Friday, October 23, 2020 at 1:32 am

    No, the Bangkok Post’s not “exaggerating” it, but the article (Economy, not rallies, should worry govt) does NOT say what you claim.

    What it actually says, very clearly, is that there “might” or “could” be a link to the timing.

    What it does NOT say is that “this was a major reason for the protests”.

    That’s pure fantasy on your part.

    Leaving the article aside since it didn’t say what you claim, would it not be reasonable to suppose that if the economy was the “major reason” for the protests that the protesters would have said so?

    … so isn’t it a little odd that none of the protesters have said anything like that?

    … and that the only people saying it must be are a handful of farangs commenting here?

    • The Thaiger & The Nation

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      Friday, October 23, 2020 at 10:13 am

      Did we even mention the BKK Post? Im struggling to find the reference.

    • Avatar

      Joe

      Friday, October 23, 2020 at 11:13 am

      The protesters are not going to talk about macroeconomics but you can be sure the economic situation plays an important role just like it did in the 70’s when there were other big student protests and the economy had been mismanaged by the army too.Most protests throughout the world are started by when people are suffering economically. So basically that article implies that it is a major reason for the student’s actions, it’s logical, if everybody is employed and doing financially well then they will put up with a lot of things,just like the Thai people have done for many years, if not then they won’t.

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