I wrote some quick thoughts on Free Youth’s new logo for Thai Enquirer, published here.

In politics, simplicity is key. If a message isn’t intuitive — or indeed, if the intuitive message is the one you don’t intend to convey — then it’s probably a counterproductive message. 

For months, defenders of the protest movement have spent time explaining that what they seek is reform, not revolution. That they believe a constitutional monarchy remains Thailand’s ideal form of government. It hasn’t been a message that’s been digested easily by most royalists; one only has to recall the image of Panusaya “Rung” Sithijirawattanakul standing in front of a screen that screamed “we don’t want reform, we want a revolution.”

And it’s an argument that will become even more difficult still to accept with the Free Youth Movement’s new “Reform Thailand” logo, laid out on a red background with what looks suspiciously similar to a sickle. (Not to mention the the fact that the text on the logo, ‘RT,’ can ostensibly be construed as an abbreviation for another much more controversial term.) 

For many who have been less than enamored with the intensified focus on the royal institution, at the exclusion of other demands for change, Free Youth’s recent missteps will feel even more alienating. 

Not that this was a one-off occurrence. The Dome Revolution party at Thammasat University, for example, had once released an image of protest leaders Rung and Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak depicted on a Maoist poster. For a group that advocates for democracy and human rights, that was decidedly in poor taste. Why protest leaders feel so compelled to evoke the specter of communism, even as a joke, is rather mystifying. 

Never mind that the vast majority of the protestors don’t have anything resembling communist leanings. Or that many Thai students may have never touched a single page of Marx. The accusation that student protestors are seeking a communist revolution will now flow even more easily from those opposed to any form of change.

As former US President Barack Obama said recently, with some slogans, “you lose a big audience the minute you say it.”

The same applies here with some logo choices.

Unfortunately, it may also be too late to turn back the clock. The public image of the movement will suffer. Polarization in Thailand will deepen further. And who knows where we are headed next? 

(Cover image credits.)

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