Nyma E., Global News Department Co-Editor
BANGKOK–Protests in Thailand have been escalating since they began on October 6. More violence has been breaking out between opposing groups, which has led to very grim consequences. Many believe that if violence and rioting ensue, the future of Thailand could be very dark.
These protests are largely led by pro-democracy, anti-military students. These students are protesting three main issues.
Firstly, protesters want the current prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, to resign. Prayuth Chan-ocha is a former general, and head of the Thai army. In 2014, he led a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government. He then pushed through a new constitution, the country’s twentieth, which weakened political parties in Parliament. This led to Chan-ocha being able to appoint a new senate and also ensured continued military influence within the government. This new senate, largely appointed by Chan-ocha, chose Chan-ocha to be prime minister. Protesters want the current prime minister to step down and they want a dissolution of parliament.
Protesters want the current constitution to be rewritten. This current constitution was drafted under military rule and doesn’t ensure that the monarch of Thailand is subject to the constitution. Protesters want a new constitution to ensure their human rights are met, and that the monarchy comes under the authority of the constitution.
Protesters are also calling for the reform of Thailand’s absolute power monarchy. The current king is Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. He is one of the richest men on earth, and he came to the throne in 2016. He asserted his power by taking control of all of the crown’s assets, and by requesting changes to the constitution after voters ratified it in a 2016 referendum. The king also spends most of his time in Germany, only coming back to Thailand for very short periods of time.
Oftentimes protesters will be holding up a three-finger salute. This salute is borrowed from The Hunger Games and represents silent rebellion. This salute has become the signal of defiance for many protesters.
Violence has been breaking out at these pro-democracy protests. Royalists, supporters of the monarchy, have been clashing with protesters demanding the reformation of the monarchy. Many protesters have posted videos showing royalists attacking them. The growing tension between Royalists and protesters could lead to more violence. This violence could possibly lead to another military coup, as the military would have a “perfect reason” to intervene and take over the government. This would be very bad for the democratic agenda of many protesters, and could also hurt Thailand economically while it is already suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.