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Who are these Thai student protesters, and what are they protesting about?




What’s behind all the protests in Thailand right now? What are the protesters demanding? Who are they?

Since August, an organic – mostly young Thais – political movement has been building. It’s different from every other protest movement in the past. The people attending the rallies don’t really align themselves, or identify with, the past political factions. They’re not red shirts or yellow shirts. They are new and claim they’re seeking key changes to Thailand’s political system and the role and powers of the Head of State.

Generally, the current protest movement has distinguished itself with self-restraint, calls for peaceful assembly and its ability to organise large, creative protests. There has been a few scuffles with police, and 5 people with minor injuries. But, compared to past Thai protests, the restraint on both sides has been welcomed.

What are their demands?

In a 10 point manifesto read out for the first time on August 10, they demanded the standing down of the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, the dissolution of the Thai parliament, a new constitution to replace the 2017 Thai Charter, police to stop “harassing” them, and curbs on the powers of the Thai monarch. They claim the 2019 general election was “fudged” and that the selection of the Thai PM by the Thai parliament is invalid.

The Thai PM never ran for parliament, was not voted for by the Thai electorate and was appointed as PM by a joint sitting of parliament. The entire upper house of the parliament is made up from hand-picked senators by the last military Junta which ran Thailand from 2014 – 2019.

Are their demands realistic?

It is unlikely that the current government would entertain any of the demands as it would result in their loss of “power”. Particularly the Senators who, if the constitution was changed, would have to run for their positions and be voted for by Thai voters.

But the current government are making small concessions and trying to push through 7 amendments to the current Thai Charter (a 2017 constitution) which would go part of the way to indicate to the protesters that they are listening. But the concessions are small indeed and many commentators believe the 7 amendments are merely stalling tactics to push any real change down the road.

Who are the protesters?

They are mostly students with an average age well under 25 years old. The two largest groups call themselves the Free Youth Movement and the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration. There is also a sub section of groups – one called “Bad Students” who have been campaigning for meaningful changes in Thai education, as well as LGBT and labour groups. But they are all united in the main thrust of central demands.

The Bad Student movement has witnessed the defiant raising of the 3 finger salute by previously compliant Thai school students during the morning assembly, flag raising and singing of the national anthem. They are demanding changes to the ‘rote’ education system, a relaxation of the strict haircut and dress codes, and less harassment from teachers and education officials.

As a new generation of Thais, they also have little fear in raising “uncomfortable” issues that limited the previous generations of Thais. They’re the first protest movement to publicly utter the “unutterable” and openly criticise the role of the Thai monarch. This particular aspect of their campaign is highly divisive in Thailand and has generated a number of counter ‘Royalist’ protest groups as well, usually clad in yellow, the colour representing the Thai monarchy.

What are their tactics?

So far the protesters have remained peaceful during the rallies, except for a few minor scuffles with police. On 2 occasions resistance from officials has involved the use of high-power water cannons, as well as tear gas in at least one case. The main advantage to the latest protest movement is their youth, their weaponising of social media, their consistent, and relentless, demands, and their resolve to stage large and persistent protests around the city, and other Thai provinces.

In the latest round of cat-and-mouse protest games with police, the protesters have shown that are able to keep one step ahead of officials and can switch their tactics and locations in moments, through the use of encrypted messaging systems.

There’s also lots of them and have no problems in attracting rally crowds of 20,000+

How has the Prayut government responded?

The Thai PM had made it clear that he wanted to avoid violence at all costs in the past few months of student protests. But when a royal motorcade headed into a throng of protesters on October 14, the situation changed quickly and a State of Emergency was enacted for the next 7 days.

How, or why, the motorcade was allowed to take a route straight into the path of an announced protest is up for debate, but the royalist prime minister saw the “interaction” between the protesters and the royal motorcade as a bridge too far.

The government imposed a State of Emergency that banned gatherings of more than 5 people anywhere in Bangkok. It also restricted publication of posts, news or online information “that could harm national security”. It allowed police to arrest anyone linked to the protests and secure “any area” it deems necessary.

But the protesters largely ignored the State of Emergency, indeed they increased the frequency of their protests.

Does it have anything to do with the Covid-19 pandemic?

No. The changes demanded by the protesters have been welling up for many years, long before the Covid-19 pandemic happened.

What reforms to the Thai monarchy are the protesters seeking?

Protesters are demanding a reverse in the monarch’s revised constitutional powers, which were put in place in 2017 after the coronation of King Maha Vachiralongkorn.

The activists say that the newly acquired powers were a wind back of the changes from Siam to Thailand in 1932 when the absolute powers of the monarch were removed by a new constitutional monarchy, enshrining representative democracy (the country was formerly renamed ‘Thailand’ on June 23, 1939). The protesters claim the monarchy is now “too close” to the Thai army and government and argue that this relationship is undermining Thailand’s democracy.

The protesters want HM the King to relinquish the additional controls he reclaimed over the palace fortune estimated to be in the vicinity of 30 billion dollars. His Majesty also took direct control over 3 battalions of the Thai army.

They’re also angry because HM the King endorsed PM Prayut, the Palang Pracharat party’s election and stitched-together coalition after the March 24, 2019 election. Opposition figures claim the election was “fudged” by using legal over-reach to cancel the votes of opposition MPs and disband parties deemed anti-establishment.

Finally, protesters say that the Thai King spends most of the year in Bavaria in Germany, and point to his alleged extravagant lifestyle and alleged interference in Thai affairs from afar.

What’s the lèse majesté laws?

The lèse majesté laws are a draconian set of laws that prevent criticisism or insults directed at the Thai monarch or royal family. Infringing the laws can result in a 15 year prison sentence. The monarchy is protected by Section 112 of the Thai Penal Code.

Has the palace or monarch made any comment about the current situation?

In a rare moment, and certainly the first time commenting about the current political unrest, His Majesty King Vajiralongkorn described Thailand as “the land of compromise”.

The comment came in response from a question by Jonathan Miller, a correspondent of British broadcaster Channel 4, who was part of an audience of international media invited to sit among a crowd of royalist supporters in front of the Grand Palace on November 1,2020. Asked what he would say to the anti-government protesters, His Majesty first replied… “no comment”, then added… “We love them all the same. We love them all the same”.

Otherwise the Palace has no official statements relating to the specific concerns or demands of the protest movement.

How do the lèse majesté laws work in practice?

In June, PM Prayut announced that the lèse majesté law would no longer be applied on the express wishes of His Majesty. But there has never been an official comment relating to this from the Palace.

But the police have still arrested and charged Thais for anti-monarchy or anti-King comments on social media by applying the Computer Crimes Act and laws relating to Sedition. Since October 13, 89 activists have been arrested and charged, mainly with sedition.

Who are these Thai student protesters, and what are they protesting about? | News by Thaiger


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  1. Avatar


    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    You forgot to ask; Who is funding the protests?

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Monday, October 19, 2020 at 11:45 am

      The student protests?

      There’s no evidence of any “funding”.

      The counter-protests?

      Well, a glance at their transport is a bit of a clue!

      • Avatar


        Friday, November 13, 2020 at 11:27 am

        This is a very interesting question ? We can easily guess the answer.

        These poor students are totally manipulated by politicians and their representatives who advance in masks. They are taking advantage of the Covid-19 crisis and the confused desire for more freedom of young people, to destabilize the regime in place.
        I find that the response of the Thai government to the protesters has so far been very soft and calm.

        If the manipulators step up the pressure on the government, I’m not sure the response remains so calm. The big losers would be above all these poor students who, in addition to losing their school year, could find themselves injured or in prison. As for the manipulators, they would hide behind their official status or abroad …

        • Avatar


          Friday, November 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

          Oh PAPA, I’m sure that you are crying when you write this. Out of phase, no more synchronized so wake up!!!

  2. Avatar

    Grim Thinker

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 4:05 pm

    In the year 2020 – everything is related to the covid 19 economic lockdown. It is a hostage type situation and young peoples dreams of travelling, working, creating buisnesses and saving are calously put on indefinate hiatus. The psychological effect alone is massive.

    • Avatar

      Don R

      Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 4:54 pm

      It’s an interesting paradox because, while the young are more likely to suffer from the restrictions and less likely to die from the virus, polling shows that young people are actually more supportive of the restrictions. IMO this is insanity. These young people ought to realize that they’re literally fighting for their lives. Gen Y is an unwitting test subject in an experiment to see how many decades you can strip out of a person’s most productive years of life before you effectively kill them.

      On the other hand, those most at risk from the virus (elderly) tend to be less supportive of restrictions and less fearful.

      Nonetheless, most of our policy makers today (the people actually pushing the restrictions) are over 60, I dare say out-of-touch, high-income professionals who lived through (and squandered) the most prosperous era in history. I wouldn’t expect these people to have a capacity for empathy for the disadvantaged because they’ve never known what it’s like to truly sacrifice or face adversity.

      Prior to covid, young people in the US had amassed 1/5th the wealth their parents had at the same point in life. They’re shaping up to be a the new Lost Generation.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 5:15 pm

      Agreed. As soon as the governments realize this, travel and international tourism and business will be reopened hopefully.

      In the end, ppl today all over the world has it easier than ever in history to create their own dreams in to reality.

    • Avatar

      Issan John

      Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 5:37 pm

      On your planet, possibly.

      Here, the protests have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Covid-19 or any “covid-19 economic lockdown” – possibly because there isn’t one in Thailand.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 7:49 pm

      How convenient – and how false and misleading – to blame the pandemic.

      From Brexit to Trump;
      from Xi’s indefinite rule (from 2018) to an unusual Thai election;
      from climate change to overpopulation;
      from fake news to questionable AI’s; the list goes on and on.

      All of them before 2020.

      There were many divisions and growing tenses well before the pandemic.

    • Avatar


      Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 8:24 pm

      Agree with Grim Thinker. While the protests may not be about Covid-19, they most certainly seem to be fueled by the psychological effects of Covid-19 and the economic shutdown. After months of protests and unrest in the U.S., it is interesting to read about Thailand having similar patterns of public outcry (albeit a different cause and less violence). Great article. Thanks for explaining this further for those not currently in Thailand.

    • Avatar

      preesy chepuce

      Friday, November 13, 2020 at 9:15 pm

      Of course it is… it’s exposed all kinds of underlying problems in many countries around the world, and the economic impact, never mind the CCP-style totalitarian lock-downs, have prompted protests all around the world. The Thaiger saying it has nothing to do with COVID shows how ignorant their journalists are of history, politics, and economics. Everything is to do with the economic impact of COVID, one way or another, you can’t suddenly pull the rug out from a generation equipped with smartphones and the internet, and expect nothing to happen! People have long-standing grievances, but history shows how the sudden lack of money usually prompts protests – and traditionally in and around October! Even the Romans understood “Bread and Circuses”, and for the last few months there’s been an obvious sudden shortage, with no immediate prospect of return. The solution to this involves strategic thinking about where to direct national debt, to invest in diversifying and modernising the economy, relying on the CCP for indirect bailout is an unwise strategy, and reminds one of the ancient history of tribute paid to emperors in Peking.

  3. Avatar


    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    Not a single mention of the water guns used Friday night. What kind of paper is this? I will unsubscribe if I don’t see fair reporting.

  4. Avatar


    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 5:52 pm

    Good to see a clear, well-written article. Nicely done ?

  5. Avatar

    Issan John

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 6:44 pm

    I get this strange feeling of deja vu …..

    Like its partner Opinion piece, I have to say that I think this is an excellent and well researched article.

    Where I disagree, though, is with the idea that “It’s different from every protest movement in the past.”

    They very much DO align themselves and identify with past political factions, and what’s more they say so, and their actions and politics are a direct and deliberate reflection of the 1932 coup and the then People’s Party, and their “Declaration” deliberately and pointedly echoes it: “Let all people know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed.”

    That wasn’t new, as many appear to think – that was lifted directly from the People’s party declaration in 1932, which is a part of Thai history:

    “All the people,

    When this king succeeded his elder brother, people at first hoped that his government would bring peace and security, but matters have not turned out as they hoped. The king maintains his power above the law as before. He appoints court relatives and toadies without merit or knowledge to important positions, without listening to the voice of the people. He allows officials to use the power of their office dishonestly, to take bribes in public construction and procurement, and seek profit from changes in the prices of money, which squanders the wealth of the country. He elevates those of royal blood to have more privileged rights than the people. He governs without principle. The country’s affairs are left to the mercy of fate, as can be seen from the depression of the economy and the hardships of making a living – something the people know all about already.

    The government of the king above the law is unable to bring about recovery. This inability to find solutions is because the government of the king has not governed the country for the people, as other governments have done. The government of the king has treated the people as slaves (or as they called them, peasants and serfs), as animals not as human beings. Therefore, instead of helping the people, it plants rice on the backs of the people. It can be seen that from the taxes that are squeezed from the people that the King is deducting many million of Baht per year for his own expenses, while the people must sweat blood in order to find just a little money. At the time for paying government tax or personal tax, if they have no money the government seizes their property or forces them into public works, while those of royal blood are sleeping and eating happily. No country in the world gave its royalty so much money as this, except the Tsar and the German Kaiser, whose nations have already overthrown their thrones.

    The King’s government has governed by deceiving and not being straightforward with the people. For example, by saying the King’s government would improve livelihood in this way and that, but time has passed, people have waited, and nothing has happened, nothing has been done seriously. Furthermore the people who should be shown gratitude for paying the taxes that royalty eats have been told they cannot yet have a voice in politics because they are ignorant. Such words from government are unacceptable. If the people are ignorant, the King is ignorant too, as we are all from the same nation. That people do not know what royalty knows is because royalty blocks them from full education in fear that if the people have education they will know the evil of royalty and not allow them to plant rice on their backs.

    Let all people know that our country belongs to the people – not to the king, as has been deceitfully claimed. It was the ancestors of the people who returned the independence of
    the country from the hands of the enemy. Those of royal blood just reap where they have not sown and sweep up wealth and property worth many hundred millions. Where did all these monies come from? From the method of farming rice on the backs of the people.

    The country is facing hardship. Farmers and soldier’s parents have to give up their paddy fields because cultivating brings no benefit. The government does not help. Everywhere the government lays off workers. Students who have completed their studies and soldiers released from the reserves have no employment, and go hungry according to fate. These things are the result of the government of the king above the law that oppresses minor civil servants, ordinary soldiers and clerks. They are not given pensions when discharged from service. In truth the monies that have been amassed by the government should used to run the country by providing work. This would be a fitting way to pay back the people who have been paying taxes for a long time to make royalty rich. But those of royal blood do nothing, just go on sucking blood. Whatever money they have they deposit overseas and prepare to flee leaving the people hungry while the country decays. All this is certainly evil.

    Therefore the people, government officials, soldiers, and citizens who know about these evil actions of the government have joined together to establish the People’s Party and have already seized power from the government of the king. The People’s Party sees that to correct this evil it must establish government by assembly, so that many minds can debate and contribute, which is better than just one mind. As for the Head of State of the country, the People’s Party has no wish to snatch the throne. Hence it invites this king to retain the position. But he must be under the law of the constitution for governing the country, and cannot do anything independently without the approval of the assembly of people’s representatives.

    The People’s Party has already informed the king of this view and at the present time is waiting for a response. If the king replies with a refusal or does not reply within the time set, for the selfish reason that his power will be reduced, it will be regarded as treason to the nation, and it will be necessary for the country to have a republican form of government, that is, the Head of State will be an ordinary person appointed by Parliament to hold the position for a fixed term. By this method the people can hope to be looked after in the best way, everyone will have employment because our country is a country of natural abundance. When we have seized the money which those of royal blood have amassed from planting rice on the backs of the people, and use these many hundreds of millions for nurturing the country, the country will certainly flourish. The People’s Party will govern and implement projects based on knowledge, not act like a blind man as the government of the king above the law has done. The People’s Party will:

    1. maintain securely the independence of the country in all forms including political, judicial, and economic etc.;

    2. maintain public safety within the country and greatly reduce crime;

    3. improve the economic well-being of the people by the new government finding employment for all, and drawing up a national economic plan, not leaving the people to go hungry;

    4. provide the people with equal rights (so that those of royal blood do not have more rights than the people as at present);

    5. provide the people with liberty and freedom, as far as this does not conflict with the above four principles;

    6. provide the people with full education.

    All the people should be ready to help the People’s Party successfully to carry out its work which will be for eternity. The People’s Party asks everyone who did not participate in seizing power from the government of the king above the law to remain peaceful and keep working for their living. Do not do anything to obstruct the People’s Party. By doing thus, the people will help the country, the people, and their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The country will have complete independence. People will have safety. Everyone must have employment and need not starve. Everyone will have equal rights and freedom from being peasants, serfs and slaves of royalty. The time has ended when those of royal blood can plant rice on the backs of the people. The things which everyone desires, the greatest happiness and progress which can be called si-ariya, will arise for everyone.

    People’s Party
    June 24, 1932”

    That isn’t “new”, nor is it revolutionary – it was read out and leafleted in June 1932, by the Army, prior to the end of Thailand’s absolute monarchy and the beginning of democracy, then re-read and re-leafleted 88 years later in June by the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration who have led the demonstrations for the last six months.

    It’s part of Thailand’s history, and openly available in Thailand and at times re-published in the media even though it’s apparently not in many of the approved history books.

    • Avatar

      Fred glue

      Friday, November 13, 2020 at 11:57 am

      It is sad, school children can’t even get fresh water or have a ceiling fan in there class room….

    • Avatar


      Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 10:46 am

      Well put, i usually find a lot to disagree with Isaan John’s posts but the article he has written here sums up pretty well the Thailand we know and love, Well done John!

  6. Avatar

    Kenneth P Paukner

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    I saw a lot about what they would like to be done away with, but what do they intend to replace it with? We see a lot of this in the US do away with some thing and nothing about the replacement till it is in place and it turns out to be an absolute dumpster fire. Groups like this are always very short on details about what they would like to see the future look like, one of our own congress women “we must pass the bill before you can know what is in it” that worked out so well.

  7. Avatar

    Pat Kelly

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 8:58 pm

    The Thai Government is telling these kids….u have no future . They want zero Covid in the country & will keep the borders locked to keep it that way. No way to run a government in 2020.

  8. Avatar


    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 9:05 pm

    The youth of Thailand are to be respected for standing up for a country that is their future and they think it. Ab better and not controlled by a few old men propped up politicians who threw their lot in with them for a position in a failed gov

  9. Avatar

    Toby Andrews

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 9:27 pm

    Er Well read previous posts and you might find out.
    I, and others do not care to repeat ourselves.

  10. Avatar

    John Barrymore

    Sunday, October 18, 2020 at 10:26 pm

    Notice the word manifesto. The language is typical of leftist revolutions. These demands are idiotic and purely polemical. The source is Western money where they have control of big tech, media, the schools, the film industry and much of the government. These powerful leftist groups send organizers around the world to foment discontent and anarchy. The goal is to bring down free enterprise and democracy and replace it with totalitarianism.

    • The Thaiger & The Nation

      The Thaiger & The Nation

      Monday, October 19, 2020 at 9:12 am

      The English word ‘manifesto’ was The Thaiger’s best guess at a translation. Air Asia publish their daily ‘manifesto’ for flights. I think you’re reading too much into the use of the word. We have seen no evidence of ‘leftist’ foreign groups tinkering with this student movement. We are well connected with the issue and would be pointing out any ‘interference’ if we saw it.

      • Avatar


        Monday, October 19, 2020 at 11:05 am

        The 3 finger salute is from the movie the Hunger Games…
        And the director was the father of the supposed shooter “Elliot Rodgers”.
        Possibly the worst False Flag actor of all times.

        According to Bristol University researchers acting under FOIA requests a certain agency had its hand in over 800 Hollywood movies….

      • Avatar


        Monday, October 19, 2020 at 11:15 am

        ignore him. he’s likely a US QAnon idiot posting in places to foment troubles and spread his moronic “conservative” drivel.

  11. Avatar


    Monday, October 19, 2020 at 9:55 am

    It all seems suspicious to me. I know Thailand isn’t the most democratic place on earth but i also think it’s in other countries interests to destabilize Thailand so they can get their ‘meat hooks’ into the running of the country.

  12. Avatar

    Issan John

    Monday, October 19, 2020 at 1:08 pm

    So any protests against a military regime, anywhere, aren’t about “democracy” but are due to “other countries” trying to gain influence?


  13. Avatar


    Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 3:02 am

    Ahead of the cards are given you need to location a bet which establishes how much anyone
    stand to win or eliminate regardless of result.

  14. Avatar


    Friday, November 13, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    as a retired expat living here I can’t have anything but an opinion, but I am curious about what goes on. thus far concerning the protests I am reading only what the protesters don’t want and only vaguely what the do want. perhaps that’s due to the quality of reporting or perhaps that’s just what the situation is – I don’t know.

    Issan John did a laudable job explaining things in his post above, but as far as this Peoples Party laying out a political platform? Exceptionally vague, no details, no plans as to what they are going to do or who will govern.

    It’s pretty hard to like the Thai version of Hope and Change, and Change We can Believe in. Even if they have great intentions and are potentially good politicians, I can’t see them getting but a fraction of the vote with such a ethereal message.

  15. Avatar


    Friday, November 13, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Yes, a decent explannation for Thaiger and appreciated.
    Even nicely surprised from the forums’ usual convid “denier” (boy, oh boy has that term been used in psy-ops!), but fanx to all of you here for putting some light on what can be achieved and what possible cannot.

    I’m not a lover of big gub and prefer it stays away from sticking it’s fingers in my or anybody elses face. It doesn’t need to be at all and downsizing is the way to go. How about anyone who rises from the ranks and is deemed suitable, will be changed every year or bi-annually to keep the original ideas which made him/her popular?
    And anybody displaying corruption against the common folk, will loose most of what they have (given to those at the bottom of the heap or even used to make better roads, services and more importantly education) and end up in a farm somewhere for a sentence and have to work for a crust (or bowl of rice!). Start there! Just my 2 cents/tuppence ha’penny……

  16. Avatar

    Khun plastic

    Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 3:15 am

    Now most of us have a bit of an idea what living in the old USSR must have been like.

  17. Avatar


    Saturday, November 14, 2020 at 7:44 pm

    Khun plastic, good observation. If people could bring themselves round to turn off their TVs and reading the lies from the mainscream press, you may get a mind shift. Simply research online and stay clear from the diss/misinfo perps. (You will get to know who those are and especially if using your intuition)

    All one has to do is research online and then filter it down and you will see a stream of truth there if you are observant.
    Yes, figuring out the wheat from the chaff is a little bit time consuming. BUT once that TV nipple is switched off, you’ll have plenty anyway! And one may even notice more other positive things going on around oneself.
    Most of the “top” TV snews networks?#/snewpapers are run by a small group of “people” anyway.

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