Student "Revolution" in Thailand: The End of the Thai Bureaucratic Polity?

Just as dusk spread across Bangkok, the mood in a cavernous warehouse near a busy traffic intersection was electric. The crowd chanted anti-establishment slogans in response to the provocative hip-hop blasting out from the stage, as headliners Rap Against Dictatorship built up to their signature song "Prathet Ku Mee" -- "What My Country's Got." The song, an angry denunciation of the Thai government, has become an anthem for young people frustrated with years of political and economic chaos. Prathet Ku Mee's success is totemic of a rising discontent among young Thais, who have come of age in an era of near-unending political crises. Those born in the 1990s have lived through the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis, two coups, sweeping constitutional change -- and now a wave of authoritarianism and conservatism that has swelled since the military took power in 2014. Rather than staying quiet, young people in Thailand have started to raise their voices online and at RAD events. With a population of around 67 million, which includes some 40 ethnic groups and languages, the success of the decades-long struggle for fully representative democracy in the Kingdom of Thailand is of vital importance to not only the health and aspirations of the people of Thailand itself but also for the future of the ASEAN. The roots of Thailand’s political chaos, and the widespread discontent and massive protests of today, are found in the last 70 years of extreme, royalist propaganda. For Thai children born after 1946, “Killing communists for nation, religion and King” was standard fare. The leader of the 2014 coup, General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, disbanded all elements of the elected government, tore-up the Constitution and set-up a military junta calling itself the National Council of Peace and Order (NCPO) and presented the country with a National Legislative Assembly (NLA). Half of the 220 seats of this ‘legislative assembly’ were filled with people hand-picked by the NCP, and half were military officers. The function of the NLA was to rubber-stamp the dictates of the NCPO. After slipping out of uniform and appointing himself Prime Minister in August 2014 and by heading-up both his NCPO and NLA set-ups, Prayuth, honouring his many predecessors, slid from Royal Army Commander-in-Chief to Thailand’s Royal Dictator-in-Chief, and proceeded, as did all his predecessors, to drafting yet another Constitution (Thailand’s 20th since 1932), and to employ all possible ways and means to delay the demand of the furious majority for a general election, to give his junta as much time as possible to consolidate power over the electorate. After slipping out of uniform and appointing himself Prime Minister in August 2014 and by heading-up both his NCPO and NLA set-ups, Prayuth, honouring his many predecessors, slid from Royal Army Commander-in-Chief to Thailand’s Royal Dictator-in-Chief, and proceeded, as did all his predecessors, to drafting yet another Constitution (Thailand’s 20th since 1932), and to employ all possible ways and means to delay the demand of the furious majority for a general election, to give his junta as much time as possible to consolidate power over the electorate. The royalist game-plays are well-understood and extremely wearisome for the majority of Thai people, because they know simultaneously that they have only two options: to submit or protest. It was early in 2020 when students first started appearing on Bangkok's streets in large numbers – to protest the dissolution, by the judges of the Constitutional Court, of the Future Forward Party, the main opposition to the Prayuth junta. The arrival of Covid-19 gave Prayuth a defensible but also convenient reason to declare a State of Emergency and stifle protest. Nonetheless, by this time, most Thai people had become deeply tired of their Dictator, and what he said or didn’t say or did or didn’t do began to feel somewhat irrelevant. Youthful Thailand was coming to a common understanding, a consensus, that it was time to inform General Prayuth that his illegitimate regime was illegal and his modus operandi impossible to tolerate any longer. On 18 July, the youth of Thailand, from secondary schools to universities, rose in protest against the military-enforced status-quo from all across Thailand. The broad, red-hot dynamism of the demands of the students, demands that range all the way from removing militant disciplinary codes in schools to radical reform of the Monarchy itself began to electrify the whole country. WHERE IS JUSTICE? Thailand has arrived at a long-predicted, dangerous, but inescapable juncture. In facing the potentially ruthless, implacable monarcho-military establishment, youthful Thailand needs, right now, the understanding, support, and solidarity of the International Community. How can the logical, common-sense, standard, decent, normal, and natural aims and demands of this youth-led uprising against autocratic rule be supported? For many years there has been a broad convergence of analysis and common opinion and a gathering of momentum around the recognition that there is no way for Thai people, for the population at large, to move from the past to the future, to be able to engage with full hearts, minds and maximum power with local, regional and global matters, issues and crises, while a patronising, monarcho-military alliance hovers over them, assuming the right to own or disown their every thought, hope, wish, desire, invention, movement, and action. King Vajiralongkorn, Head of State, is a well-known abuser of human rights, an abuser of the privileges afforded to him by birth, a pathological abuser of women, a vile executioner, an owner of some 10 000 slaves, some of them trafficked, and, for the youth of Thailand and the world, the worst possible example of a human being, let alone Head of State. Since people in Thailand have zero resort to meaningful justice – or appeal, at the start of 2020, ACT4DEM joined forces with Pixel HELPER in Germany to bring the crimes of King Vajiralongkorn directly to courts of justice in Europe. General Prayuth is a puppet of the Chakri monarchy and powerless without it; thus, Thai people’s work at present is focused on bringing the attention of the Germany Bundestag, European Union, United Nations, and all people around the world to focus on the extreme degrees of corruption and cruelty exhibited by King Vajiralongkorn. King Vajiralongkorn must be forever prevented from beating, torturing, and murdering any more people, as well as being prevented from throwing any more desperately needed, hard-earned public money down the drain of his selfish desires. Does this King of Thailand also think himself above and beyond the laws of Germany and the European Union? Does he imagine that he is not subject to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that his kingship is beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court? Apparently, he does, but increasing numbers of people. Including most of the youth of Thailand, are starting to find him guilty on all counts.

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