Photo Credit: The Foreign Photographer
All throughout history, conflicts between the ruler and the ruled have existed. Even if citizens are largely happy with policies put into place by leaders, there is almost always a percentage that is not satisfied. Oftentimes, this results in protest and civil unrest. The countries that make up our world vary slightly or greatly in the policies, governance, and legislature that make them up. With this in mind, the dissatisfaction that has ravaged the past still happens today and everyday.
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in Thailand, who oppose the current government, are an example of this historical and modern idea. There has been a lot of political turmoil in Thailand since the former military general, Prayut, returned to power after it was seized by the military in 2014. This angered many young voters who favored the Future Forward Party, or FFP. This party was forced to disband after it was given a loan from Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the party leader. The loan was viewed as a donation which made it illegal.
After the disbandment of the FFP, many young people began to protest. Many student-led groups got involved as well. Some of these students, including Panusaya Sithijirawattanakul and Parit Chiwarak, were arrested during protests along with 20 other leaders of the protests. Thailand’s lese majeste laws are strict and forbid criticism of the royal family. These limits make it risky for protesters to speak out about their grievances since violation of these laws can result in up to 15 years in prison. As these protests continue, many news outlets have also been under pressure from these laws. Publishing any content that violates these laws could lead to the suspension of the outlet or for content to be deleted. Another issue that protesters are shedding light on is King Maha Vajiralongkorn’s decision to make Crown wealth his personal property, rather than being held for the benefit of the citizens. The connection between the government and military has also become stronger, which fuels concern within citizens who yearn for democratic conditions. Some of the main objectives of these protests are to rewrite the military-drafted constitution, push Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to resign, and to reform the monarchy.
With all of that said, why is this such a big deal? What is the significance of these objectives? How and why do they matter? The answer to these questions can be understood when we think about the definition of voice. Beyond just projecting a sound, a voice is a way to express how one feels about any topic, whether it’s as simple as a new movie, or as complex as a cry for justice. The ability to express any opinion is the gateway to change. This action of expression is of such great significance that it has inspired hundreds of thousands of protests and conventions throughout the course of history. America’s first amendment, which includes the freedom of speech and expression, is just a testament to the significance of one’s voice. When the ability to express one’s views is protected in such a way, it is easy to take for granted, but that does not undermine its importance. These recent Thailand protests are a reminder of these power of the voice ideals. As mentioned earlier, expressions that are critical of the Thailand royal government can result in up to 15 years of imprisonment; despite this, Thailand protesters continue to use their voices for the sake of change and justice.
The power of expression has led to many protests like the ones in Thailand. With this in mind, it is important to keep an open mind when trying to understand what is going on in the world, so that protests in Thailand and all over the world can be amplified and issues can be resolved.