Civil Unrest in Thailand Hopes to Reform the Monarchy

Some protesters use a three-fingered salute - a gesture taken from the Hunger Games film franchise Source:

The pro-democracy demonstrations began in February. There was a lull during the Covid-19 lockdown before resuming in july. The anti-government protest has been developing rapidly across the country, especially among university and school students. Conservatives and even some parents of students have blamed “masterminds” for being behind the student uprising. In an effort to curtail anti-government protest, Thailand revived its Draconian Lese Majeste law making it illegal to criticize the royal family. The law provides for penalties of up to 15 years imprisonment for violations.

Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators attend an anti-government protest at Thammasat University’s Rangsit campus on August 10. The Nation/Asia News Network
The unrest gained momentum in September with the youth led protests of September 19 and 20. Military coup d’etats are a regular occurance in this southeast asian country. In just over a century, Thailand has had 13 successful and nine unsuccessful coups in just over 100 years.

On My 22, 2014 there was a military coup in Thailand by the Royal Thai Armed Forces led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha who is commander of the Royal Thai Army overthrowing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her government which was dominated by the Pheu Thai Party following six monthis of government unrest.

The military established a committee called the National Council for Peace and Order to govern the country. The committee for all practical purposes functioned like a one party dictatorship dissolving the government and the Senate, transferred executive and legislative powers to its leader, ordered the judiciary to operate under its directives, declared martial law and then tightly clamped down on dissent both in the political arena as well as written.

However, what was once unthinkable is now being openly challenged by the younger generation. Pro-democracy leader Arnon Nampa (35) broke a long standing taboo against criticizing the Thai Crown during a speech at a demonstration on August 3. On August 10, Nampa with student leader Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul at Thammasat University Rangsit Campus proposed a 10-point manifesto. Among the more salient points were to:

Nullify Article 6 of the Constitution which prohibits any legal action against His Majesty the King, and to scrap the lese-majeste law which shields the King from criticism.

Separate the King’s personal wealth from assets under the Crown Property Bureau (reportedly worth billions)

Cut the annual national budget of the palace so it would be in line with economic conditions.

An end for donations for the royal family and an end to one-sided education that praises the royal institution.

The monarchy not endorsing any political coup and refraining from expressing political views in public.

In addition the protests are calling for the resignation of  Prime Minister Prayut, a new constitution, the dissoution of parliment and an end to intimidating goverenment critics.

In response, the government has cracked down on protests by issuing an emergency decree in an attempt to “maintain peace and order” by banning large gatherings and limiting groups to no more than four people. However, the gatherings have grown well into the tens of thousands. The three-fingered salute (a gesture taken from the popular movie series – The Hunger Games) has been adopted as a symbol of defiance against an authoritarian state.,of%20Thailand%2C%20following%20six%20months%20of%20political%20crisis.

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