THAILAND: STUDENTS COME TO STREETS TO CALL OUT THE TYRANNY
Thailand has a long history of political unrest. But this new wave began in February after a court ordered a pro-democracy party to dissolve.
The Future Forward Party (FFP) had been particularly popular with young voters. It garnered the third-largest share of parliamentary seats in the March 2019 election.
Protests re-energized in June. It was when prominent pro-democracy activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit went missing in Cambodia. There he had been in exile since the 2014 military coup.
His whereabouts remain unknown. Protesters accuse the Thai state of his kidnapping. This is something the police and government have denied. Since July Thailand saw regular student-led street protests.
Protestors demanded that the government headed by PM Chan-Ocha, be dissolved; that the constitution be rewritten; and that the authorities stop harassing critics.
WHY IS THIS ONE DIFFERENT?
The demands of demonstrators took an unprecedented turn last month. A woman read out a 10-point call for reform to the monarchy.
This sent shockwaves through a country that is taught from birth to revere the monarchy and fear questioning.
The young woman who delivered the manifesto, Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul, has said their intention “is not to destroy the monarchy but to modernize it, to adapt it to our society”.
But she has been accused of “Chung chart.” Chung chart is a Thai term meaning “hatred of the nation.” They say they are deeply fearful of the consequences of doing “the right thing” by speaking out.
WHAT LAWS BACK THE MONARCHY?
Every one of Thailand’s 19 constitutions of modern times has stated, at the top, “The King shall be enthroned in a position of revered worship.”
Article 112 of the Criminal Code back the provisions. This is known as the lese-majeste law, which subjects anyone criticizing the royalty to secret trials and long prison sentences.
The definition of an insult is incredibly unclear. Human rights groups say the law has often been a political tool to curb free speech.
The law caught great momentum in the years after the 2014 coup to a great extent. Although it has slowed since King Vajiralongkorn. He declared that he no longer wanted its usage as much.
But citizens say that the government has used other legal ways to target dissent.