Thailand’s protest rallies intensify What forces are behind the chaos?

The anti-government demonstrations in Thailand, which have been going on for nearly 100 days, have intensified. As of the evening of the 21st, demonstrators in the capital, Bangkok, had taken to the streets for the eighth day in a row, voicing demands such as “the fall of the Bayut government, revision of the constitution and reform of the monarchy”. According to Western public opinion, the largest wave of anti-government rallies since the Thai military staged a coup and the Bayut government took office in 2014 has been formed, and it is “extremely rare and unprecedented” for Thailand to see criticism of the monarchy and demands for reform, and the younger generation will become “the catalyst of Thai democracy”. “. In the view of many scholars, Thailand’s current political turmoil is a combination of long-term structural institutional mechanisms and interference by external forces, but more importantly, it is the tug-of-war between the parties behind the chaos.

There have been 200 demonstrations around the country this year

According to Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao, there have been 200 demonstrations across Thailand so far this year.On February 21, Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that the source of the money lent to the party by New Future Party leader Thanatone was illegal, announced the dissolution of the New Future Party, and stipulated that the party’s 16 executive members were barred from politics for 10 years.The party was founded in 2018, and the general election in March 2019 will leapfrog the Thai parliament. The third largest party, the New Future Party, is popular with some young people in Thailand. After the party was ruled to have been disbanded, demonstrations on campuses increased and then subsided somewhat due to the epidemic.

In July, with the gradual easing of epidemic control measures by the Thai government, student-led demonstrations began again, mainly calling for the fall of the Bayut government and constitutional changes. The situation took a turn for the worse in August when, on 10 August, students at the National University of Law and Order, which has a history of democratic movements, rallied with slogans such as “We don’t want reform, we want revolution” and others questioned the power of the royal family, saying, “Why do we need such a government? The King”. The demonstrators then put forward three major demands: “the fall of the government, the amendment of the constitution, and the reform of the monarchy”, and, learning from the movie “The Hunger Games”, they held up three fingers as a symbol of “opposition to totalitarian dictatorship”.

In September and October, the rallies spread from Bangkok to all over Thailand, with more and more people participating and more frequent demonstrations, and more young people from college and high school students. According to the Wall Street Journal, the “Free Youth Movement” was one of the main groups that initiated the protests. In support of the protests, a group of Thai fans of the Korean group Girls’ Generation raised about 800,000 baht (1 baht is about 0.2 yuan) in two days. Hong Kong media reported that among the protesters were “Red Shirts,” supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The South China Morning Post said former Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had also posted on social media recently recalling protests against her government in 2013-2014.

As observed by the Global Times in Bangkok, local demonstrations and rallies are gradually becoming more normalized, with students attending rallies every night and a large number of Thai celebrities and opinion leaders taking a stand in support of the demonstrations on social media. Most Thais do not feel too affected by the protests as they are usually peaceful, with participants making speeches, chanting slogans, sit-ins and sometimes singing and dancing. Some people and businesses who support the students say, “Thailand needs change”. In Bangkok, there were also royalist supporters who took to the streets holding pictures of the Thai royal family, saying, “You can ask for more democracy, but you can’t touch the monarchy”.

Speaking of the three-finger gesture, Bangkok activist Ritipan said it represented “the values of freedom, equality and brotherhood” in Thailand, and that after Thanatone formed the opposition party in 2018, the gesture had now been used to show that “we are not targets of tyranny and abuse”. “. As explained by Erich Papat, a reporter for the Thai Inquirer, the gesture dates back to the French Revolution – the era of liberty, equality and fraternity in one – but most protesters now only know it as the gesture from The Hunger Games.

Facing the wave of demonstrations, Thailand’s King Wajiratrongkorn, who has returned from Germany, said, “Thailand needs to be patriotic and love the people of the monarchy,” without directly responding to the demonstrators’ demands to limit the power of the royal family and demand that Bayu step down. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Bayu said that “the government is willing to listen and continue to solve problems in all areas.” Deputy Prime Minister Suphattanapong, on the other hand, stressed that “the political process is the best way to resolve the current troubled situation and everyone should work together to help the country get out of the economic crisis”.

“Young people think differently from their parents,”

The current anti-government street movement in Thailand, in the view of Zhou Fangye, an expert on Southeast Asia at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, is rooted in the continuing evolution and continuation of Thailand’s political power structure since 2006. The current street movement has shown some new changes: firstly, the fundamental contradictions of the anti-government street movement have increased inter-generational differentiation on the basis of urban-rural, regional and rich-poor divisions; secondly, the political demands of the anti-government street movement have become further polarized and have begun to touch on the “monarchy”. It is a political red line,” he said.

According to Chou Fang-ye, over the eight years from the 2006 coup to the 2014 coup, Thailand experienced several rounds of political conflict, commonly referred to as the “Red vs. Yellow War”. Although there have been many changes in leaders and political demands, the root cause of the conflict is the structural conflict between the peasants and urban poor in the provinces (i.e. outside the capital Bangkok, especially in the northern and northeastern regions) and the urban middle class in Bangkok. -Royalists, military groups, Bangkok political and business groups). Therefore, before 2014, the Bangkok street movement saw more faces of the poor and the weather-beaten. In contrast, the Bangkok street movement in 2020 is more likely to be university students and young people just entering society.

In Thailand’s political conflicts before 2014, although there have been many large-scale clashes and even tragic bloodshed, none of them touched the “national system”. Since 2016, Thai politics has become increasingly polarized, with the King’s occasional political statements largely determining the political direction of the “Red versus Yellow” war. The “red and yellow war” that divided the country further divided the extreme left and the extreme right, thus forming the new capital group Thaksin’s faction – the center-left camp represented by the Pheu Thai Party, the Bayu faction – the The centre-right camp, represented by the Bangkok political and business groups, the far-right royalists, represented by the leaders of the “red-rimmed” faction and former army commander Abhisit Vejjajiva, and the far-left wing of the new capital group, the new generation of students, represented by the Thanatone faction.

On the far left, apart from the student leaders, the key political figure is the 42-year-old billionaire Thanatone. Thanatone, who left Parliament, became more radical, openly supporting the New Generation student leaders’ 10-point demand for reform of the “monarchy”, including the repeal of article 112 of the Monarchy Act, which states that “any person who defames, insults or threatens the King, his legal successor or the Regent, or any other person who is a member of the Parliament, shall be considered a member of the Parliament”. ” who will be imprisoned for three to 15 years), reducing the royal budget accordingly to the country’s economic situation, establishing a system of checks and balances and monitoring royal spending, eliminating educational programs that worship the monarchy, finding out the truth about the killing of civilians who criticize and associate with the monarchy, and that the king should not endorse military coups and publicize political views.

According to Supaulak, a veteran Thai media personality and former editor-in-chief of The Nation newspaper, King Wajiratrongkorn, who succeeded to the throne in 2016, has been living overseas for a long time, but his expenses have been borne by Thai taxpayers, causing some netizens to discuss the issue. He said: “Young people have a very different idea of a monarchy than their parents, and they want a constitutional monarchy that is more transparent and closer to the true meaning of the word.” Zhou Fangye also said that the new Thai generation, born after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, had not experienced the era when Thailand was known as the “Four Asian Tigers” and were more concerned about the problems of the established system in solving the problems of stable socio-economic development and prosperity.

In the event that you have a good idea of what you are looking for, you should be able to find a way to get the best out of it,” he said. Behind the protest there is a tangle of power and interests. The royalists seek vested interests to preserve the existing power structure, while the protesters want to reform the existing power structure and even revolution. Huynh Li Ping stressed that Southeast Asian countries expect the situation in Thailand to be stable and keep ASEAN integration moving smoothly. There are also public opinion analyses that the Thai royal family needs to take the initiative to change to meet the needs of the people.

It is noteworthy that in the parliamentary struggle, Tanatone faction in early 2020 to the Bayonne government “cooperation with China is detrimental to Thailand’s interests on the grounds of” the proposed no-confidence case debate was rejected by a high vote. Thailand’s “anti-Payud” movement, there are people and “Hong Kong independence” and “Taiwan independence” to form online and offline linkages, building a “milk tea coalition” for example. ” a cluster of social platform activity and an attempt to spread discontent into the area of Sino-Thai cooperation.

The Western factor behind the new generation of demonstrations

The European and American media are very concerned about the situation in Thailand. The US Washington Post said on 20 October that Thailand’s politics has been polarized for nearly 20 years, with a rural-based populist movement on one side and an urban elite allied with the military and the royal family on the other. The populists have repeatedly won democratic elections only to be ousted by coups and dubious court rulings. The newspaper added that the United States is a powerful military ally of Thailand and that “movements that have supported democracy in the past may turn to the United States for help.”

Reuters reported in April 2019 that Tanathong had been defended by U.S. and other Western embassies and consulates when he was under review by the Thai judiciary, and that after the New Future Party was disbanded, U.S. and Western NGOs such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International made high-profile statements, encouraging the new generation to take to the streets to protest.

“The unprecedented protest demonstrations erupted just over a year after the coronation of King Wajiratrongkorn of Thailand,” Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said the protest demonstrations were driven in part by German media reports, with the German foreign minister saying that “political activities concerning Thailand should not take place on German territory” after the media exposed the Thai king’s lavish lifestyle in Germany. These developments appear to have encouraged the protests in Thailand. The youth-led pro-democracy protests have demanded the abolition of the government led by Bayut, a new constitution and restrictions on the monarchy, whose sanctity is backed by the military. Thailand’s parliament has received various proposals to amend the constitution, but these have been delayed by the royalist and military-dominated Senate.

“Protests are not new in Thailand. Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian country has seen about 20 coups since the transition to a constitutional monarchy in 1932.” In the age of social media, the Thai junta is now finding it difficult to keep quiet about the demands of the demonstrations, Bloomberg said. In an interview with the BBC, Prajak Kongirathi, an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science at the National University of Law and Order of Thailand, said that “an ideological divide has now permeated all levels of Thai society”, that the youth have been showdown, and that the political elite are overconfident in their ability to rule and that not wanting to make any adjustments will set the stage for a political stalemate Voodoo.