Early 2020 was monumental for many reasons - our world was rocked by fires in Australia, growing tensions between the USA and Iran, and COVID-19. However, one thing that flew under the radar was the beginning of an almost year-long series of protests in Thailand. These protests first started in late February on college campuses due to the termination of the Future Forward Party (FFP) and were later halted by the coronavirus. However, the protests resumed in July, calling for the removal of the prime minister as well as the creation of a new constitution to include reform of the monarchy.
Recently, the conflict escalated - in fact, on November 16th there were clashes between loyalists and the pro-democracy protesters. Police were asked to intervene and ended up firing tear gas and high-pressure water cannons at the protesters in order to get them to disperse. At the end of the day, at least 55 were injured with six suffering gunshot wounds and 32 injured from tear gas. Consequently, 20,000 protesters gathered in Bangkok’s main shopping district and tagged the area with anti-monarchy and pro-democracy graffiti.
In response to the increased unrest in the country, the prime minister, on November 19th, allowed the police to crack down on pro-democracy protests. This has led to 99 deaths as of November 20th.
There has been great conflict in Thailand, but why did this happen? Back in 2014, there was a coup with the head of the army, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, taking over the country and naming himself prime minister. He then created a provisional government that was supposed to create a new constitution to be ratified by the people and voted upon, however that stipulation was removed.
The current government was debating on amending the current constitution to implement reform. However, though the motion is widely accepted by the pro-democracy protesters and has more than 100,000 signatures, it failed to pass through the senate. This was due to many senators being worried that the passing of the amendment would lead to the possibility of anti-monarchical actions. The failure of the new reforms, which would give the people a say in legislative bodies, surprised no one. However, the Thai government’s ignoring of the will of the people has caused the government to be termed a feudal dictatorship.
The Thai protests are emblematic of those around the world who want representation in their government. They are the protests of a people who wish to have a voice. They are the protests that have led to the creation of many of the nations that we hail from. They are the protests of a people who want change - who need change