Thoughts on Thailand’s First Post-Coup Mass Protest

Finals are coming, time is a limited resource but somehow interesting things in politics always happen when I’m busy. (Either that, or things are just always interesting in Thailand.) I do want to put in my two cents about the first large protest in Bangkok since 2014, however, so I decided to crank out a quick Axios-style post on this.

  • Crowd size: I was surprised by the number of people who turned out for the protest yesterday. I doubt it was 10,000 people as Future Forward tried to claim (this number seems inflated to me), but around a thousand or more seems accurate. UPDATE: I might be wrong, according to the math done here.
    • Given that this was the first large protest since the coup, and there was uncertainty around how the government would react, it was a impressive that so many heeded Thanathorn’s call and showed up.
    • A larger protest next month, so we’ll have to keep an eye about whether their momentum can be sustained.
  • Government reaction: it’s interesting how the government’s paranoia manifests itself so frequently. Peaceful political demonstration is a right guaranteed in any democracy, and initial police attempts to close down the rally was certainly unwarranted.
    • It would be far preferable, PR-wise, for the government to simply tolerate these protests. But we’ve seen enough to know they aren’t exactly rational actors.
  • Is this a turning point? Maybe, if history serves as a guide.
    • The sale of Shin Corp in 2006 and the passage of the Amnesty Bill in 2013 both sparked large anti-government protests. Now, Future Forward’s impending dissolution could be a similar catalyst.
    • If it does, it’s not difficult to see why; the route to parliament was closed for this movement, and there was nowhere to go but the streets.
  • The national anthem was sung at the protest, and I found it striking when juxtaposed with how Future Forward’s supporters have often been labelled chung-chard (“nation haters”).
    • In 2013, the PDRC succeeded in co-opting the national flag as a partisan symbol. This shows that the opposition won’t let that happen quite as easily.
  • A question: did hashtags feature quite as prominently during the PDRC protests in 2013-14? Or is this a more recent phenomenon?
    • #ไม่ถอยไม่ทน and #กลัวที่ไหน (misspelled into #กลัวมี่ใหน – trust the Thais to misspell our own language) were adopted as protest slogans. This certainly isn’t the first protest of the Twitter era, but I don’t recall Twitter being such an important part of the PDRC protests.

Thanathorn said that “since they will not let me into parliament, I will stay with the people.” But if his party isn’t allowed in parliament, it seems that continued street protests will be the result. It is unfortunate that we may have to brace ourselves for a return to instability. But this outcome was inevitable, due to the 2017 constitution’s unequal rules of the game, and constitutional amendment will be the only way out.

(Cover image credits)






One response to “Thoughts on Thailand’s First Post-Coup Mass Protest”

  1. […] of political observers, of course, in the form of Thanathorn Juangroongrueangkit’s flashmob last month. But these demonstrations were different; they were planned in advance, and as such make for a much […]

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